South Sudanese government agreed to extend the deadline for the formation of a unity government by six months to avoid return to war, information and broadcasting minister Michael Makuei Lueth, said on Tuesday.
Makuei said President Salva Kiir’s administration had initially objected to delay in forming the unity government beyond the May 12 deadline, but it compromised for the sake of peace.
“We did not want to go back to war and we don’t want to declare the agreement has collapsed, but we want to come out with a government that is acceptable to all of us.
“That is why we accepted the extension,” Makuei said.
Makuei said any failure in extending the pre-transitional period would have shattered the fragile peace deal and returned the world’s youngest nation into war.
He called on the parties to the pact to unite and ensure that the pending issues, such as security arrangements and determination of number of states be completed before the elapse of the six months.
“We make sure we operationalise the provisions of chapter two because at the end of the six months, there will be no room again for extension,” Makuei said.
Parties to the agreement on Tuesday held a news conference in Juba to brief the country about the outcome of last week’s talks in Ethiopia, where they agreed to delay the new government by six months.
Signatories to the 2018 peace agreement on May 3 agreed to extend formation of the transitional government by six months following delays in the implementation of the pact.
Henry Odwar, deputy chairman of the main rebel group, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) said the delay would allow the parties to resolve the pending issues.
“In the last eight months, we were unable to implement the security arrangements and we hope in the next six months, we should be able to implement the security arrangements.
We need to work together so that we achieve peace,” Odwar said.
Gabriel Changson Chang, chairperson of Opposition Alliance, a grouping of smaller armed factions in the peace deal, said the extension was not to destroy the peace deal, but it was meant to salvage the deal from collapse.
South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.