South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during the opening of the 33rd African Union (AU) summit of heads of state and government at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020. (Photo by Michael Tewelde/Xinhua)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the African Union (AU) chair, welcomed on Thursday an agreement between conflicting parties in South Sudan to form a coalition government on Feb. 22.

This agreement will help preserve the unity of the people of South Sudan and bring about durable peace and stability in the country, Ramaphosa said as the AU Peace and Security Council concluded a three-day field mission to the world’s youngest nation. The decision to form the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) was reached earlier in the day between Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of South Sudan, and Riek Machar, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition. “Today’s breakthrough in Juba, South Sudan is a major step in our collective efforts to silence guns in Africa,” said Ramaphosa.

On Saturday, Kiir said that after meeting with Machar, he had decided to return the country to 10 states plus three administrative areas, clearing a major hurdle before the deadline to form the R-TGoNU, as the number of states has been a contentious issue for several years. This announcement was made almost two weeks after Ramaphosa held separate meetings with both Kiir and Machar on the eve of the 33rd session of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Ramaphosa encouraged the two rival leaders to redouble their efforts towards a speedy resolution to the outstanding issues in the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), signed on Sept. 12, 2018.

In his statement, Ramaphosa commended Kiir and Machar for displaying statesmanship and a spirit of compromise, which paves the way for the formation of the R-TGoNU in accordance with the R-ARCSS. The installation of the R-TGoNU will mark a major turning point in efforts to bring unity, peace and stability in South Sudan, Ramaphosa said, urging all the political parties in South Sudan to join the transitional government. He reiterated the AU’s determination to continue working with the government and people of South Sudan to achieve lasting peace, stability and prosperity in the country. Shortly after its independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan plunged into civil war. It is estimated that since late 2013, at least 300,000 people have been killed, some 1.8 million people displaced internally and 2.5 million have fled to neighboring countries.

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