South Sudan rivals agree to coalition government as country emerges from civil war

South Sudan rivals agree to coalition government as country emerges from civil war

Rival leaders in South Sudan announced Thursday that they have agreed to craft a coalition government just two days before a crucial deadline as the country works to move on from a five-year civil war.

The development comes after opposition leader Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir missed two deadlines in the last year to form a transitional government, which exacerbated fears that the world’s youngest country could slip back into civil war. The transitional government is expected to oversee elections in three years.

Machar told reporters in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, that he and Kiir agreed to resolve any lingering disputes over a 2018 peace deal after the government’s formation, according to The Associated Press.

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Kiir announced that the new government will officially be convened Saturday and that Machar will serve as his top deputy under the title of vice president. He added that security arrangements, a linchpin of negotiations, will be resolved after the government’s formation and that he will oversee protection of Machar and others with the opposition. 

The president also said the number of states in the country, another key piece of negotiations, have been resolved, according to the AP. Kiir had announced a “painful” compromise of 10 states as well as three other administrative areas, a drop from 32.

South Sudan was thrust into civil war in 2013, two years after it declared independence from Sudan. The conflict has ravaged the oil-rich country’s economy and led to widespread abuses, including documented cases of sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers.