Presidential elections in South Sudan due next year will be postponed, the government has announced. It comes amid severe ethnic-based violence resulting from a top political power struggle.
The South Sudanese government announced on Twitter on Monday that next year's presidential elections would not go ahead as planned. It said the polls could be postponed until as late as 2018.
It comes days after a ceasefire deal between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, was reached in Ethiopia. But both sides have accused each other of violating the ceasefire, dashing hopes of peace to end five months of civil war.
Troops loyal to Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and rebel fighters loyal to Machar, an ethnic Nuer whom Kiir dismissed last July, have been embroiled in largely ethnic-based violence since December.
While beginning as a power struggle between the two rivals, the conflict has seen the army divide along ethnic lines, resulting in thousands of people being killed and a million people forced to flee their homes.
Nuer rebels on Monday said government soldiers had re-taken control of Bentiu, the capital of the oil-rich Unity state. Both sides have blamed each other for launching ground attacks and artillery barges.
Each side has also accused the other of using mercenaries and rebel forces from neighboring Sudan, from which South Sudan became independent in 2011.
Machar told reporters in Ethiopia that elections should be held next year as originally planned.
"If we could reach a comprehensive agreement, based on this roadmap, we could hold the election in 2015. That would be good for South Sudan. This is when his (Kiir's) term comes to an end," he said, adding that he wanted to redraw the constitution to establish a federal government.
"We want to restructure the state and the system of governance. Our position is that there should be a federal system in a country like South Sudan which is diverse."
jr/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)