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South Sudan Leaders Again Postpone Creation of Unity Government

From left, South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni pose for a photo at the State House in Entebbe, Uganda, Nov. 7, 2019.

South Sudan's president and chief rebel leader met in Uganda Thursday and agreed to postpone the formation of a unity government for another 100 days. This is the third such delay in South Sudan's peace process, and some analysts believe that even with the delay, the sides will not be able to bridge the differences that are holding them up.

At the meeting in Entebbe, the two South Sudanese leaders once again asked regional bloc IGAD if they could delay forming a unity government.

The meeting, attended by South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, opposition leader Riek Machar and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, noted that critical tasks related to security arrangements and governance have not been completed.

Sam Kutesa, Uganda’s minister for foreign affairs, summarized what has been agreed to.

“The meeting agreed to extend the pre-transitional period for 100 days effective from the 12th of November 2019, and to review progress after 50 days from that date. And a report be submitted to the heads of state and parties," Kutesa said.

The two warring factions in September 2018 signed a peace deal that was overseen by the United Nations, the United States and regional governments.

The parties also agreed to establish a mechanism for the guarantors and the parties to supervise implementation of the pact.

The agreement calls for creation of a unified national army, as well as a transitional unity government.

Political analyst Tolit Charles Atiya said the process needs financial support and more involvement from South Sudan's political stakeholders.

“They need to get a clear fiscal policy to stabilize it. The transitional government, if it is anything to go by for now, it should be expanded to include professional groups, membership groups, the church, the women's league. And you know, women and children have taken the biggest brunt and this is something that needs to come to the table,” Tolit said.

The civil conflict that erupted in December 2013 has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 4 million.

Ter Manyang Gatwech, a South Sudanese refugee leader in Uganda, says he and fellow refugees are skeptical the delay announced Thursday will result in real progress.

“In Uganda here, we have almost nearly a million, for the refugees. But these people here, they need to understand these 100 days. But with the South Sudanese people, it is just a waste of time. To me, nothing will be done after 100 days.”

The new deadline for forming a transitional government is Feb. 20 of next year.