South Sudan’s parliament voted Thursday to amend the constitution and extend the terms in office for President Salva Kiir, the country’s vice presidents, and all members of parliament for another three years.
Dengtiel Kur, chairperson of the parliament's legislative committee, presented the bill to amend the constitution during an extraordinary session of parliament Thursday.
Kur asked lawmakers to "take this through [in] one day because we are under pressure.” Kur was referring to the fact that all terms in office, from the president on down, are due to expire next month.
Justice Minister Paulino Wanawilla said the move is meant to prevent South Sudan’s government from becoming illegitimate.
The vote allows Kiir to remain in power until 2021 and extends the mandate of the current South Sudan transitional government, parliament and governors of all the 32 states for another three years.
Kiir is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
The opposition party SPLM-IO issued a statement after the vote, saying it regrets what it calls “the underhanded manner” by which legislators at the national assembly extended the transitional government's term.
The statement, signed by opposition spokesman Mabior Garang de Mabior, said the move proves the Kiir government is not interested in a peaceful resolution to the civil war and called it an “illegal extension of the regime’s tenure.”
Gabriel Roricjur, the chief whip of opposition political parties represented in parliament, voiced support for the amendments.
“Why I’m saying we are moving in the right direction is that the duration of the agreement is going to expire very soon, and if we don’t do it now, the international community will land on us that we are working illegally,” he said.
The country’s warring parties were unable to agree on a power-sharing deal during talks last weekend in Kampala, Uganda. That proposal would have led to the dissolution of the current government and formation of a new transitional government of national unity.
South Sudan gained independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011, but in late 2013 erupted into violence over a power struggle between Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar.