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JUBA - 5 Dec 2019

Opposition blames government for failure of talks

South Sudan’s main opposition group has blamed the government for the failure of recent talks on the number of states and their boundaries in Juba.

On Wednesday, government and opposition negotiators ended three days of meetings without breaking a deadlock over the number of states, casting a shadow over efforts to end the impasse.

Manawa Peter Gatkuoth, the deputy spokesman for the opposition SPLM-IO, told Radio Tamazuj on Thursday that the government team was solely to blame for the failure of the talks, saying that they repeatedly rejected proposals brought forth by mediators.

“We blame the government side for the failure of the talks, especially Martin Elia and Michael Makuei because they were not interested to find a solution to the issue of the number of states,” Manawa said.

 Manawa further said the SPLM-IO offered compromises at the meetings which ended on Wednesday night, pointing out that they didn’t want to walk away without a deal.

“We were willing to negotiate over the number of states and the mediator asked us to concede. Our side accepted 23 or 24 states after the mediator asked us to compromise, but the government refused to compromise and demanded for 52 states,” he said.

“The mediator asked both sides to meet in the middle but the government refused and proposed more states. Also, there was a proposal that a referendum should be held to determine the number of states,” he added.

The opposition official said the government "lacks the political will" to resolve the number of states and their boundaries, a key requirement of the peace deal.

Manawa further said it remains unclear whether the government will drop its insistence that South Sudan should have more than 50 states.

He disclosed that all parties to the peace deal are now waiting for the mediator to come up with proposals on the number of states and their boundaries in the next round of negotiations, saying that both sides agreed to meet again after 10 days.

Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

On November 7, President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar agreed to give themselves another 100 days beyond the November 12 deadline to form a unity government.

President Salva Kiir, opposition leader Riek Machar and a handful of other groups signed the peace deal in September 2018. However the parties have failed to create a unified army and determine the number of states since the deal was signed.