JUBA, South Sudan, Feb 15 – South Sudan’s president said on Saturday he would return to a system of 10 states, a key opposition demand, paving the way for a unity government and an end to the country’s civil war.
“The compromise we have just made is in the interest of peace…I expect the opposition to reciprocate,” Salva Kiir said, after a meeting of top government and military officials in the capital Juba.
Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar are under increasing pressure to resolve their differences by February 22 and form a unity government as part of a peace agreement.
The pair have already missed two previous deadlines to enshrine peace to end a six-year conflict that has left at least 380,000 people dead and millions in dire poverty.
The number of states is contentious because the borders will determine the divisions of power in the country.
When it gained independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan had 10 states, as set out in its constitution. Kiir increased that in 2015 to 28, and then later 32.
But on Saturday, a presidential statement confirmed that Kiir had “resolved to return the country to 10 states and their previous counties”.
Kiir’s had repeatedly refused to back down on the number of states but had come under intense international pressure to compromise.
Kiir and Machar are old rivals who have fought and made up multiple times.