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Salva Kiir and Riek Machar agree to form a unity government

February 21, 2020

The move has come after weeks of local and international pressure. At least 380,000 people have died during the South Sudanese civil war, which created Africa's biggest refugee crisis since the Rwanda genocide.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar
Image: AFP/P. Louis

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar on Thursday agreed to form a unity government in the war-torn nation.

"We have agreed to form the government in two days on 22 February," Machar said after meeting Kiir.

"We are still discussing on other things and I am hopeful we will resolve them all."

Kiir confirmed that they had agreed to a joint government for the third time since independence in 2011.

Plans to form a power-sharing administration had been delayed twice last year after discussions led to an impasse.

The two sides had gathered in May 2019 for talks in Ethiopia to salvage a 2018 peace deal that sought to end years of civil war triggered in 2013, when Kiir and Machar became rivals and just two years after the East-Central African country declared independence.

Read more: Sudan signs initial deal to end conflict with rebel groups

Key compromise

"As the president, I will be appointing the vice presidents, and I will start by appointing Riek tomorrow in the morning and I will dissolve the government today and then form a new government on the 22nd," Kiir said.

"These are changes which will bring peace."

Many of the issues have yet to be resolved, but last week, the president said he was willing to cut the current 32 of regional states to ten — a key requirement of the opposition.

Read more:  Catalonia to South Sudan: A world of separatist movements 

Delays to peace

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into a civil war in 2013 when President Salva Kiir sacked his then-deputy Riek Machar, who went on to lead the main rebel faction. 

An earlier November deadline to form a unity government was delayed because key criteria of the 2018 peace deal had not been met, leading to US sanctions on some political leaders. 

kw/bve (AFP, Reuters)

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