JUBA – South Sudan’s incumbent government will form the long-awaited unity government with or without the main opposition group, SPLM-IO, a senior government official said on Friday.
Michael Makuei Lueth, information minister and government spokesman told reporters on Friday following a cabinet meeting that President Salva Kiir will go on with the government formation in February whether or not the SPLM-IO will accept to participate.
He said the number and boundaries of states will remain as provided for in the Presidential Order splitting the country to 28 (then 32) states in October 2015. He said the government will never be forced to drop the issue whatever the pressure.
“Number of states will and shall forever be 32 states, they’ll only be reduced according to the will of citizens of South Sudan, not the opposition. As the government of the people, that’s our position, we’re ready for the formation of the unity government on 22nd February,” the outspoken minister said.
Makuei who is also sanctioned by the United States for inciting for the continuation of the ongoing civil war said his government has come into pressure from unnamed “world powers” in recent weeks to give up on the issue.
South Sudaan opposition groups and the government of president Salva Kiir Mayardit have been on odds over the issue. The government wants the number of states remains as they are.
Meanwhile the opposition groups wants the country returned to the previous 10 states. A meeting of the parties organized by the regional body, IGAD, which mediated the revitalized peace agreement failed to deliver solution.
Last week, South Africa’s Deputy President, David Mabuza proposed an arbitration mechanism – an alternative dispute resolution method aimed at addressing the current impasse over the number of states and their boundaries.
“We are going to subject the question of the number of states to arbitration, a mechanism that is going to take 90 days. 90 days will go into the government of national unity,” Mabuza told journalists last week.
SPLM-IO led by Machar however rejected the proposal and called on the international community and the region to form an independent body to look into the issue.
“The legislature cannot be formed without having addressed the issue of the number of states, so this is one clarification we wanted make,” Angelina Teny, head of the SPLM-IO defense committee.