South Sudanese President Salva Kiir announced on Friday that rival Riek Machar will again serve as vice president in a national unity government, just one day ahead of a deadline for establishing the agreement.
Kiir read the decision to the nation days after he agreed to limit the number of South Sudanese to 10, reverting back to a previous territorial configuration that Machar remained adamant about keeping.
“We have discussed in greater length to form the government as scheduled. South Sudanese should not be held hostage any longer,” said Machar on Thursday. “I and the president agreed on the time frame of implementing the other outstanding issues in the agreement.”
The negotiation process had already seen two extensions since the original May 2019 target date to end conflict that has devastated South Sudan since 2013, when Kiir accused Machar of attempts to overthrow his government and the supporters of each side took up arms.
Yet that’s also required negotiations with several armed groups. The regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and special envoy Ismail Wais, who have brokered the deal alongside the African Union and other parties, said on Friday the various parties attending a meeting in Juba signed off on the mechanism for monitoring and verifying the ceasefire.
Despite the end to most hostilities, the fighting has continued in some areas, while the years of war since 2013 had claimed nearly 400,000 lives, according to 2018 research from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.