South Sudan's ex-vice President and former rebel leader Riek Machar flanked by President Salva Kiir Mayardit address a news…
FILE - Former rebel leader Riek Machar, right, and President Salva Kiir address a news conference at the State House in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 20, 2020.

JUBA , SOUTH SUDAN - South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar appeared together in Juba on Thursday to say that after several previous failed attempts and missed deadlines to form a unity government, they have agreed to create a new, transitional government by Saturday. 

Kiir told reporters he was dismantling the current transitional government Thursday and would appoint the agreed-to five vice presidents on Friday. 

“We sat today and agreed that we will form the government and in the formation of the government, there are things that we will continue to discuss as a transitional government of national unity, such as security arrangements in Juba and protection of [main opposition party] SPLM-in Opposition,” the president said. 

“I have taken the responsibility that as the unified forces are still under training, my soldiers will be responsible for the general security in Juba,” he added. 

The president added that a VIP force would provide security to opposition officials arriving in Juba. 

Discussions to follow

Standing next to Kiir, Machar confirmed the SPLM-IO would take part in the new government’s formation this week with the understanding that outstanding issues would be resolved soon. 

“Right now we have agreed to form the government on February 22. What is expected next is for us to discuss [issues] and we trust that we will settle it,” said Machar. 

For months, the government and former rebels were at an impasse over the number of states in South Sudan. Kiir unilaterally increased the number to 32 during the recent civil war. Machar and allies insisted the country revert to the original 10, which Kiir agreed to last weekend. 

Kiir also said the country would have three “administrative areas,” for which the powers and duties still must be determined. 

On Thursday, the president urged government officials who may not be reappointed in the next transitional government to remain calm and not try to retaliate against new officials. 

“I want to tell the people of South Sudan that all the changes that are taking place right now are to bring peace and not changes that will bring conflict again, because we are tired of conflict. Conflict stops development, and if we stop fighting in the coming three years, then we will see the difference,” said Kiir. 

'Peace needs patience'

Sudanese Sovereign Council member Mohammed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagalo, who appeared at the same news conference as one of the guarantors of the unity government, praised Kiir for agreeing to revert to the original 10 states. 

He said both parties had shown interest in ending the suffering of the South Sudanese people. 

“Peace needs patience. Peace has a price, but by God’s grace, we need to see Juba back to the way it was in the past and even better than before. All the other outstanding issues that Machar was insisting on to be completed before the formation [of the unity government] are now in the past, because right there is a trust between the president and Dr. Machar,” said Dagalo. 

Machar, Kiir and the other parties to the 2018 revitalized peace deal failed to meet the two previous deadlines to form a unity government, on May 12 and November 12 of last year.