FILE - South Sudan's President Salva Kiir addresses a news conference at the Presidential palace in Juba.
FILE - South Sudan's President Salva Kiir addresses a news conference at the Presidential palace in Juba.

South Sudan rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar say President Salva Kiir’s decision to establish 28 new states is a violation of the recently signed peace agreement and indicates he is not committed to the peace process.

A statement issued over the weekend and signed by Machar called on the regional group Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that mediated the peace process to take a position.

In a decree establishing the 28 new states, President Kiir said his decision was guided by South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution. He also said one purpose of the new states is to decentralize power, placing resources closer to the rural population while at the same time reducing the size of the national government.

Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, secretary for foreign affairs of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in opposition, said President Kiir took a unilateral decision based purely on tribal considerations.

“This is a violation of the agreement we signed on the 17th and the 26th of August (2015) because the agreement clearly states 10 states, and if you are amending or changing any article or any clause in the agreement it has to be agreed upon by the parties,” he said.

Ambassador Lol Gatkuoth said the rebels hope President Kiir would rescind his 28-state declaration because it is not in conformity with the spirit of the peace agreement.

In addition, Lol Gatkuoth said the division of South Sudan into 28 states will bring about more community unrest because it takes away land from one tribal group and gives it to another.

South Sudan officials said Machar’s rebels had proposed the creation of new states, and what President Kiir did was in line with South Sudan’s transitional constitution.

Ambassador Lol Gatkuoth said South Sudanese have always yearned for a federal system of governance where states are autonomous to the central government.

He said that before the peace agreement, the SPLM/SPLA created 21 federal states based on the former British colonial districts.

“This has been the vision calling for a federal system, more counties and states. This is has been what we wanted to see happening, but now since an agreement has been signed restricting the two parties to 10 states, you cannot change it all of a sudden to 28 states,” Lol Gatkuoth said.

Lol Gatkuoth said SPLM in opposition chairman Machar has lodged a complaint with IGAD and the international community to get President Kiir to reverse his decision.

“My chairman, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, who is also the vice president-designate of South Sudan, wrote a press statement telling the world that this is unacceptable; it should be condemned because it is going to derail the implementation of the peace process,” Lol Gatkuoth said.

He said the SPLA in opposition’s policy calls for the creation of 21 states based on colonial boundaries.  He said President Kiir’s 28 states creation is unilateral and ethnic-based, and will therefore be more confusing.