South Sudan’s president has named new governors after nearly tripling the number of regional states, undermining a fundamental pillar of a power-sharing deal to end a two-year-long civil war.
The presidential decree was read out on state radio late Thursday. The now 28 states make the previous 10 regions “defunct”, Radio Tamazuj reported.
President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar have repeatedly accused each other of breaking successive peace deals but say they remain committed to an August 26 agreement, despite missing a string of deadlines.
An advance team of rebel delegates — not including Machar — arrived this week in Juba, tasked with beginning the formation of a transitional government of national unity, but the naming of the new governors voids key parts of the formula to create that government.
Civil war began in December 2013 when Kiir accused his former deputy Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the poverty-stricken country along ethnic lines.
UN chief in South Sudan Ellen Margrethe Loj said in a message broadcast Friday that with the rebel’s arrival, “hopefully this is the start of the implementation of the agreement.”
Machar issued a statement late Thursday announcing that “the war of the last two years has come to an end” and wished Kiir a “merry Christmas and a happy new year.”
However, clashes were reported on Wednesday in Upper Nile state, rebels and security sources said.
Fighting continues, and the conflict now involves multiple militia forces who pay little heed to paper peace deals, driven by local agendas or revenge attacks.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) last week warned that a “major breach” of the peace deal was “increasingly likely” with growing numbers of armed groups now neither loyal to the government or Machar’s rebels.
“The prospect of a multipolar war is becoming reality,” the ICG said.
“Juba is also preparing for offensives during the upcoming dry season in anticipation that the agreement it never fully committed to could collapse,” it added.