A view of the 26th AU summit is seen in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, on Jan. 30, 2016. The 26th ordinary session of the African Union (AU) heads of states and governments kicks off on Saturday at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa. (Xinhua/Pan Siwei)
A view of the 26th AU summit is seen in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, on Jan. 30, 2016. The 26th ordinary session of the African Union (AU) heads of states and governments kicks off on Saturday at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa. (Xinhua/Pan Siwei)

South African deputy president David Mabuza said he plans to consult with the African Union (AU) and regional countries to resolve the contentious issue of the number of states that has derailed formation of an all-inclusive government.

Mabuza, who has been mediating between the government and the main opposition group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) over the unresolved number of states issue, said he will engage the AU and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to find amicable ways to tackle political and boundary disputes that have undermined peace in South Sudan.

“We put arbitration on the table, they say that arbitration must happen before the unity government is formed. Our feeling is that the time is too short if we want to do a thorough job. Probably we need to consult IGAD and AU,” Mabuza told journalists on Wednesday evening in Juba.

He said the contentious issue, which has seen the main opposition group SPLM-IO under Riek Machar stick to its demand of 23 states with the government on the current 32 states, will be discussed at the upcoming Africa Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The warring parties have unsuccessfully been negotiating in Juba in an attempt to resolve the contentious issue of the number of states as part of the peace deal.

Mabuza, who is South African President’s special envoy to South Sudan, said that for arbitration to work effectively his mediation team must consult with local communities.

He said the government and opposition remain committed to forming the transitional unity government before the Feb. 22 deadline.

The warring parties since May 2019 failed to form the much-awaited unity government, and in November another deadline was pushed until February after an extension of 100 days.

President Kiir and his main peace partner Riek Machar on Jan. 15 agreed to refer the issue of states’ number to the mediator because he had focused his efforts on this matter.

However, it seems that Mabuza preferred to have the support of the IGAD countries that are already represented in the 15-member Independent Boundaries Commission, the only mechanism set up by the revitalized peace agreement to resolve this critical issue. Enditem

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