South Sudan rebels on Friday welcomed the decision by President Salva Kiir to appoint 50 MPs from the opposition into his cabinet to signal an end to a three-year strife, but warned they will still reject the creation of more regional states.
On Thursday, Mr Festus Mogae, the AU chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission for South Sudan, announced that both sides had reached an agreement to form a transitional government based on a peace deal signed in August last year.
In the new arrangement, Mr Mogae, a former president of Botswana, said President Kiir will appoint key ministers of Finance, Defence and Justice but rebels will share out most of other posts such as Energy and Interior, for a transitional government set to last 30 months.
"We already did our part by sending our nominees to the President. We are glad that they have been taken in. It is now for those who are still out of the country to fly back and serve the nation," Dickson Gatluak Jock Nyuot, the deputy spokesman for the Riek Machar's SPLM-In-Opposition side, told the Nation by phone from Addis Ababa.
This means a transitional government, which should have been in place in by last December, will now be formed this month.
President Kiir should take 53 per cent, Machar's side 33 per cent, while former detainees and other political parties should take seven per cent each, according to the Compromise Peace Agreement midwifed by regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or Igad.
On Friday, the South Sudan government said it was optimistic the latest move would stop further violence in Africa's youngest nation.
"It is good news for the people of South Sudan that finally they will sit back and not worry about violence.
"We hope that 2016 is the year for peace in South Sudan. We need to get ourselves out of these bad headlines," South Sudan Deputy Ambassador in Nairobi James Morgan told the Nation.
The new government will have about 30 ministerial posts, 16 of which will go to the ruling party South Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), 10 to the SPLM-In-Opposition and four (including Foreign Affairs) to smaller parties that include former detainees.
But even as the road to peace smoothened on Thursday, rebels said they were still against President Kiir's decision to create 28 new states in South Sudan, carved out from the original 10.
"The agreement we signed talks of ten states, so we disown it (the creation of 28 new states)," Mr Nyuot said.
"This should not turn people to violence, we hope to resolve the matter because it is likely to cause new conflict. People are going to be alienated from their land and there will be new demarcations which we are against."
President Kiir created the new states in October, a month after he signed the peace agreement in Juba, having initially rejected the same deal when it was tabled in Addis Ababa in August.
He had cited unacceptable provisions but later signed it in Juba in September after being prevailed upon by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Sudanese government representatives.
SWORN ON DEC 29
The 28 new governors were formally sworn in on December 29 last year.
The move to appoint the cabinet follows months of accusations and counter-accusations by both sides about violations of the agreement that first demanded a total ceasefire.
Only last week, rebels called for the UN Mission in South Sudan to deploy troops in more areas, citing constant attacks by the South Sudanese army, charges Juba denied.
The conflict in South Sudan was triggered by a mutiny in December 2013 by soldiers allied to Riek Machar.
The violence soon spread to the entire country along ethnic lines.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 50,000 people were killed and two million others displaced by the violence.
A report by AU investigators, led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, revealed that both sides engaged in cannibalism, sexual assault and use of public radio to foment hatred and violence.
Several human rights organisations have called for culprits to be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.