South Sudan’s president and a former rebel leader agreed to delay forming a unity government for 100 days beyond the November 12 deadline, Uganda’s presidency said, buying time after concerns war could resume if the sides were pushed.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar met in Uganda in a last-ditch effort to resolve outstanding disputes preventing formation of a coalition government in time for the deadline.
Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal in September 2018, under pressure from the United Nations, United States and regional governments to end a five-year civil war that devastated the world’s youngest country.
Both sides blame each other for not meeting milestones stipulated by the peace deal, especially the integration of fighting forces.
Thursday’s meeting “was held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere”, the Ugandan statement said.
Both sides agreed there were “critical tasks” related to the deal not yet complete, particularly “security arrangements and governance”.
A spokesman for Machar praised the new agreement.
“This is good and will enable security arrangements to be completed if resources are availed as required”, spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel told Reuters.
There was no immediate comment from Kiir.
“This avoids the worst, even if it falls short of providing a clear path to resolving outstanding issues,” said Alan Boswell, a senior analyst with Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group.
“Regional mediators must step up at the highest levels to move the peace process forward,” he said.
Kiir and Machar traded accusations before the meeting hosted by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, as concerns grew the ceasefire would not hold after Tuesday’s deadline.
“Nothing has been done” by government to implement the peace deal, Machar’s spokesman Puok Both Baluang told Reuters.
Kiir told parliament government paid more than $30 million to cover the costs of implementing the deal. It was not clear how the money was spent. His spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, declined to say why government had not released the total $100 million pledged.
The different security forces were supposed to be registered, disarmed, retrained and integrated. Tegistration is incomplete, the chairman of the international body monitoring the peace deal told Reuters.
Many commanders say they have not received enough forms to register forces, the chairman of the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism said in a phone interview.
There are also shortages of food and medicine, Major General Desta Abiche Ageno said. “We are now observing many registered forces leaving designated sites.”
Kiir and Machar demand shared control of the capital, a problem that triggered war twice, Crisis Group noted earlier this week.
Thursday’s statement did not include details on security plans for Juba.
It said both sides, along with governments in the region monitoring the deal, agreed to meet to review progress in 50 days.