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South Sudan rival leaders delay forming coalition government

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — South Sudan President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar have agreed to postpone the formation of a coalition government for 100 days.

The rival leaders were to have formed a unity government by Nov. 12, but after meeting in Uganda for six hours Thursday, they said that security and governance issues needed to be resolved before they could form a government together.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni mediated the Kampala meeting which was held to try to salvage the peace deal designed to prevent South Sudan from sliding back into civil war.

Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa made the announcement of the extension, attracting applause from Machar’s delegation who had been pressing for the deadline to delayed.

It was agreed that during the 100-day period, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan would work with the regional group, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, to resolve all outstanding issues hampering the formation of a new South Sudanese government in which Kiir would be president and Machar one of the vice presidents.

South Sudan is slowly emerging from five years of fighting that killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions. A fragile power-sharing agreement signed last September has been riddled with delays and a lack of funding. The formation of a unity government has already been delayed once due to outstanding issues including security arrangements and defining the number of states.

South Sudan experts warn that without a new approach, the uneasy situation may well be the same when the 100-day period ends in February.

“The key question is what will change during this 100 days? They’ve already had more than a year and achieved virtually nothing of substance,” said Klem Ryan former coordinator of the U.N. Security Council’s expert panel for South Sudan. This will potentially only increase international frustration and fatigue with Kiir and Machar, he said.

Senior analyst for the International Crisis Group Alan Boswell said while “this veers us away from the cliff edge by avoiding the worst,” regional heads of state must use the extension to mediate a path forward.

At least one aid group is urging South Sudan’s government to use the extension to focus on the country’s dire humanitarian situation. Almost 1 million people have been affected by flooding across the country, last week the government declared a state of emergency in 27 counties.

“The South Sudan government must prioritize meeting humanitarian needs now, not in 100 days. Many will not survive another 100 days if nothing changes,” said Martin Omukuba, South Sudan country director at the International Rescue Committee.

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Mednick contributed from Nairobi, Kenya.

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Associated Press