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President Kiir’s 28 states is a “complicating factor”, says JMEC chairman

January 8, 2016 (JUBA) – The chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), the highest body to oversee and monitor the implementation of the peace agreement signed in August by rival parties in South Sudan, has admitted that the unilateral creation of 28 states by president Salva Kiir has become a complicating matter which threatens the implementation of the peace agreement.

Botswana’s former president Festus Mogae (Photo File AFP)

Former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae, who was appointed by the African Union (AU) to head the body, said he would instead focus on formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) and leave the issue of the states for now.

“The states are a complicating factor for now… but we are going to be concentrating on the positive side on the implementation of formation of transitional government of National Unity,” president Mogae revealed to a Juba-based Catholic church-run Radio Bakhita on Friday.

President Kiir, his government, supported by the Jieng [Dinka] Council of Elders (JCE) – a tribal organization composed of Dinka intellectuals - have refused to reverse the decision and have continued to proceed with the implementation of the unilaterally created 28 states despite condemnation by the other parties to the peace agreement.

Mogae said there is a serious stalemate between the parties over the matter, saying his office will now instead concentrate on formation of the national government and leave state governments until the matter will later on be resolved by the transitional government.

The comment from the head of JMEC implies that the former Vice-President and leader of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), Riek Machar, will first be appointed as First Vice-President by President Kiir. The two will form the government based on the ministerial portfolios they selected on Thursday.

JMEC chairman said he was happy that the parties resolved on the selection of national ministerial positions and appointment of 50 members of the SPLM-IO to the transitional national legislative assembly.

Sources close the processes in Juba told Sudan Tribune on Friday that the government of national unity may be formed before completion of some of the needed amendments in the constitution, including the number of states.

Observers however say forming a transitional government of national unity in Juba before resolving on the number of states and formation of state governments is a recipe for another conflict within the new would-be national government.

The government initially rejected the idea to create more states during the two-year of peace negotiations in Addis Ababa with the opposition factions, despite earlier proposal by the SPLM-IO to create 21 federal states for the country.

The East African regional bloc, IGAD, and other partners in the mediation persuaded the SPLM-IO to drop the proposal of creating more states, saying this will be collectively tackled by all parties in the constitution making process.

However, about 40 days after the peace agreement was inked, President Kiir came up with a unilateral decision to create 28 states, prompting condemnations from other parties and regional and international mediation groups.