South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar on Sunday rejected a peace offer by President Salva Kiir that included plans to reduce the number of states but also create three administrative areas in the country, reported Reuters.
On Saturday, Kiir said the country would be divided among the original 10 states from 32, a key opposition demand, and the creation of three administrative areas of Pibor, Ruweng, and Abyei, raising hopes of an end to the deadlock.
But Machar said the new proposals do not go far enough. Though he appreciated the government’s decision to revert to ten states”, he objected to the three administrative areas and warned the three areas risked causing further problems, calling the issue a “Pandora’s box.”
Among the three regions, Ruweng, which is believed to be rich in oil resources, has been one of the most heavily fought over areas in the civil war and is claimed by both Kiir’s Dinka people and Machar’s Nuer community.
It “cannot be referred to as reverting to 10 states (and) as such cannot be accepted,” the Sudanese rebel leader wrote in a statement. “We therefore call upon President Kiir to reconsider this idea of creating administrative areas.”
Machar has repeatedly said he would join his old job as vice-president if the country’s structures of states return to its original form.
Notably, when South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, it had 10 states, as set out in its constitution. But President Kiir increased the number of states in 2015 to 28, then 32 and has now decided to reduce the number back to 10, plus the three areas.
Six years of conflict have devastated South Sudan and led to some 380,000 deaths in the country. Both Kiir and Machar are under increasing international pressure to meet a deadline of February 22 to implement a power-sharing deal.