President Salva Kiir's decision to increase the number of states in South Sudan has been widely criticised as undermining the peace deal reached in late August.
Under the internationally-brokered peace deal for South Sudan reached after months of negotiations, the country now has a transitional government, headed by President Salva Kiir, and a complex power-sharing formula in which rebels get a share of seats at national and state levels. The deal was intended to end 20 months of civil war between Kiir and rebels led by his former vice president Riek Machar. Under the deal the rebels chose powerful governor posts in the northern states of Unity and Upper Nile, the country's main oil production zones. But now President Salva Kiir has announced the number of states will be almost tripled, from 10 to 28. Critics say this makes the peace deal redundant. To find out more about the implications of Kiir's move, DW spoke to Dr Magdi El Gizouli, a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute
DW: What could be behind Salva Kiir's move to increase the number of states?
Magdi El Gizouli: During the negotiations for the peace deal, one of the demands that Riek Machar had was a federal arrangement for South Sudan, including a redivision of the states and an increase in their number. Riek Machar's faction has a certain plan which they put forward during the negotiations about how these states should look. This plan generally reflects the areas of influence that they have and their attempts to boost these areas of influence which are largely in the north.
Salva Kiir has a counter proposal to Machar's proposal - with, of course, the advantage that it is a government decree -and he is trying to put that division into force to create an alternative power structure for himself that would restrict Riek Machar's influence, knowing, of course, that Machar's faction, according to the peace deal would get the governorships of the three main states in northern South Sudan, areas where most of the conflict is going on. Redivision would would make this very difficult as it would not be clear then where Riek Machar's governors would be since the governorships were proposed on the assumption that the division of states would continue as it is today. What Kiir is doing is effectively unravelling one very important provision of the peace agreement which is granting Riek Machar's faction authority in the oil-dominated regions of the north.
What are the implications of this seeming standoff between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar?
Very, very grave. I would not be surprised if Machar resorted to fighting unless Kiir reverses his decision or enters into negotations about it because it is effectively undermining the power-sharing arrangement between the two sides.
What could be done to save the situation?
Well. the EU already issued a statement asking Salva Kiir to reverse his decision, although I am not sure that is immediately possible. I think the best we can hope for is a return to the negotiating table. Even during the signing you may recall that Salva Kiir took more than a fortnight to think over whether he would sign or not and there was considerable resistance inside the Juba camp against signing the peace deal. I think now they are calculating "Oh, we signed the peace deal, now we can attempt to walk back from it" and of course this undermines the entire basis of the deal.
Magdi El Gizouli is a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute
Interview: Fred Muvunyi