South Sudan rivals agree to form unity gov't by deadline – president

JUBA, South Sudan – South Sudan President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar agreed Tuesday, December 17, to form a unity government by a February deadline, as they face international censure over faltering peace talks.

The rivals signed a truce in September 2018 but have failed to respect a cornerstone of that agreement – that they form a power-sharing government and lay their differences to rest.

Two deadlines have passed without Kiir and Machar, his former deputy turned foe, agreeing to join forces.

Disagreements linger over territorial boundaries and a commitment to unifying their fighters.

On November 12 they were given another 100 days to honor the pillar of the peace deal, and fears have grown that the country's fragile truce could be at stake should they fail to do so once again.

Following talks in Juba, Kiir said the pair had agreed to meet the 100-day deadline.

"We...have said that after the 100 days we have to form the government," Kiir said, adding that any outstanding negotiations would be worked through by the new administration.

South Sudan plunged into war in 2013, just two years after it achieved independence from Sudan to the north, after a falling-out between Kiir and Machar, who now lives in exile.

Successive peace deals and mediation bids have failed to achieve a lasting peace for the world's youngest country.

But the 2018 agreement largely paused the bloodshed that left nearly 400,000 South Sudanese dead and forced roughly 4 million people – one-third of the population – from their homes. –