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International Crisis Group Says South Sudan Could Slide Back into Fighting

War-torn South Sudan is “barreling toward a crisis” and could slide back into fighting, warned the International Crisis Group on Monday.

The group’s gloomy prediction is due to the slow progress South Sudan’s main opposing factions are making towards forming a coalition government.

Just 14 months since they signed the improved peace deal, South Sudan President, Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar have yet to agree on how to draw regional boundaries, how many regions to administer, how to maintain soldiers in camps or even share government position.

Neighboring countries like Kenya and Ethiopia fear they will spend another year of dealing with South Sudanese refugees if Kiir and Machar don’t work out their differences.

Machar wants to delay the formation of the new government until resolutions can be found to outstanding issues, specifically security arrangements. The opposition said the peace deal would be violated if the government moved ahead without Machar.

He also wants at least 41,500 soldiers from both the government army and opposition rebels must be housed in barracks, trained and unified into one national army, including a 3,000-member VIP protection force. The number of states in South Sudan must be agreed upon.

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The new deadline for forming a coalition government is November 12. The deal was supposed to go into effect in May.

But President Kiir says another delay is not an option.

“We are implementing the peace agreement and if we’re implementing the peace agreement all the international actors should be working toward making the formation of the government possible, not by trying to project a situation that would aggravate things,” said government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny.

The international community is stepping up pressure on South Sudan to form the coalition government as soon as possible.

The East African regional bloc mediating the peace deal has invited parties to Ethiopia on November 8th to try to find a way forward. And during a visit to Juba last month by the U.N. Security Council, South Africa’s ambassador to the U.N., Jerry Matthew Matjila, suggested any outstanding issues between Kiir and Machar can be resolved by the new coalition government.

However, the International Crisis Group is cautioning against pushing parties to come together before they’re ready, or risk a repeat of 2016 when the first peace deal collapsed, fighting erupted in Juba and Machar fled the country on foot.

“The demand that Kiir and Machar form a government, come what may, is perilous,” said the report. Even if the leaders agree to share power, ongoing disputes over security arrangements and state boundaries would poison the new administration, potentially leading to its collapse, it said. The group is urging for immediate high-level mediation ahead of next week’s deadline.

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Written by How Africa

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