South Sudan: Civil Society Calls for Deal on Number of States

The 32 states of South Sudan in 2017.

Civil society groups have urged the international community to persuade the South Sudan government to compromise on the number of states, and help form a transitional administration indicated in the peace deal.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the group of activists based in Kenya called on the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), the African Union, donors known as the Troika, the European Union and other stakeholders to ask the government to "consider the interest of common citizens first."

The group; led by Mr Daniel Deng, Dr Wesley Natana, Noel Night and Tut Michael said they were directing the statement to the Djiboutian diplomat Ismael Wais, the Igad Special Envoy for South Sudan, to help kick start a push for a compromise as he works with various international partners.

"[They international partners should] ensure that all an inclusive, transparent, regional and tribal balanced revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity is formed without neglecting any of the article of the agreement," they said in a statement.

South Sudan leaders, President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, are supposed to form a transitional government of national unity by February 22. But the two sides had failed to agree on the number of regional states the country should have.

They met last week under the auspices of Igad in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Igad announced there had been no deal but said President Kiir would consult citizens and return with a compromise proposal by Saturday, February 15.

When South Sudan gained Independence from Sudan in 2011, it had 10 states. In 2015, during peace talks in Ethiopia, Mr Machar's side, the SPLM-IO, proposed 21 federal states, based the old districts created by the British colonial administration. The government strongly opposed this move.

And in August 2015, the parties signed the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (A-ARCSS) which acknowledged the initial 10 states.

However, in a surprise move in October 2015, President Salva Kiir issued a decree creating 28 states, saying it was a popular demand by the people.

He said it was meant to devolve power rather than centralise governance in Juba, a move that was condemned as unconstitutional by political parties, civil society organisations and members of the international community.

Gradually, the states increased to 32.

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