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Pretoria claims victory as warring South Sudan leaders sign peace deal

The president of South Sudan Salva Kiir.
The president of South Sudan Salva Kiir.
Image: AFP/Charles Atiki Lomodong

A week after taking over as chairperson of the African Union, SA has a win in its bag with efforts to resolve the ongoing conflict in South Sudan proving successful.

Pretoria’s mediation in the fight between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar led to an agreement signed on Friday that will pave the way for the formation of a government of national unity.

The agreement — seen by TimesLIVE — is aimed at resolving the “sticky issue” of how many states the young country should have.

It was agreed by all opposing sides that South Sudan would be made up of 10 states from 32 and there would be three administrative areas.

After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan had a total of 10 states, according to its constitution. In 2015, Kiir increased that to 28 and then later to 32.

Pretoria is claiming this as a huge win in their effort to mediate conflict across the continent.

Last Saturday, Ramaphosa met with both Kiir and Machar in separate meetings on the sidelines of the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The talks were described as sensitive as Ramaphosa urged both sides of the conflict to sign the agreement.

Ramaphosa had begun mediating the conflict in South Sudan since he was deputy president.

On assuming the presidency, he handed over the role as special envoy to South Sudan to deputy president David Mabuza who has been travelling frequently to Juba to get the warring factions to sign an agreement.

When Mabuza returned from the East African country earlier this month, his office said that the parties could not reach a middle ground on the number of states as one of the outstanding issues towards the formation of the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity.

TimesLIVE understands that Ramaphosa’s meeting with both Kiir and Machar was seen as a major breakthrough and prompted the agreement.

In a statement released on Saturday, Mabuza lauded this decision “as progressive and being in the best interest of peace and unity in South Sudan”. 

“This revolutionary decision by President Kiir sets the tone for the formation of the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity before or at the end of the current extended period ending in a week’s time. This will ensure that the guns are silenced in South Sudan as they move towards forming the transitional government.

“We further congratulate the people of South Sudan for the patience and resilience they have shown during this difficult period. Finally, we encourage all the parties to work together to build South Sudan towards her sustainable development and prosperity,” Mabuza said.

More than 400,000 people have lost their lives in the five-year civil war which has displaced millions.

The formation of the government of national unity is seen as a positive step to ending that conflict.


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