JUBA – South Africa’s Vice President David Mabuza is returning to Juba to exert more efforts once again to settle the dispute on the number and boundaries of states, sources said today.
This is after he has been ordered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to find a solution on the state impasse before the government of national unity is formed.
The SPM IO has expressed hopes of reaching a compromise despite the parties’ failure to agree on some of the outstanding issues in the peace process, particularly the number and boundaries of the states.
Dr. Riek Machar, the leader of the South Sudan opposition movement, the SPLM-IO, have met separately today at his residence in Juba with the French and Egyptian ambassadors in Juba today.
SPLM-IO director of information Puok Both Baluang said the South African Deputy President and Special Envoy David Mabuza will be in Juba soon to continue discussions on the proposed arbitration on the number of states.
South Africa’s Deputy President David Mabuza, the country’s Special Envoy to South Sudan, has displeased both sides in his efforts to resolve the country’s bitter civil dispute. The opposition has accused him of bias towards the government of President Salva Kiir.
Yet the spokesperson for Kiir’s government is also unhappy with a proposal Mabuza made last week to get external arbitrators to decide on the most contentious issue between the government and the opposition, the question of how many federal states South Sudan should have and what their boundaries should be.
It is mainly this dispute that has been preventing the government and opposition getting together to form a transitional government of national unity (TGNU) over the past year. The opposition, as well as analysts and diplomats, sharply criticized Mabuza for proposing that the TGNU be formed by the agreed 22 February 2020 deadline, while arbitrators would have 90 days to decide on the number of states. The opposition says this favors the Juba government.
Last week the government did seem to support Mabuza’s proposal. But on Sunday government spokesperson and Information Minister Michael Makuei said that the proposal for arbitration contradicted the peace agreement of September 2018, which is the framework for the current negotiations.
South Sudan had 10 states when it seceded from Sudan in 2011 to become Africa’s newest nation and this number is stipulated in the constitution. But in 2015 Kiir unilaterally increased the number to 28 and then later 32. The opposition believes he added the extra states to gerrymander greater support for his own Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM). They insist that the constitution is explicit that South Sudan comprises only 10 states and that only a constitutional amendment approved by two-thirds majority of both houses of Parliament can change that.