South Sudan’s main opposition accused the government on Wednesday of failing to push through a peace deal and called for a six-month delay in the formation of a unity administration, casting a shadow over efforts to end years of fighting.
The spokesman for former rebel leader Riek Machar said he did not believe he would be able to join a unity government on Nov. 12 – a deadline agreed in September after months of talks, broken ceasefires and pressure from the United Nations, the United States and regional powers.
Speaking later at a public event, President Salva Kiir did not directly address the comments from Machar’s camp. He said all parties to the agreement had committed to forming the unity government on Nov. 12 and the international community expected that to happen.
“I want to welcome (the opposition) and forget all the bitterness,” Kiir said.
There was no immediate comment from other countries who helped broker the accord. U.S. officials said this month they would not accept more delays and might impose sanctions if deadlines are not met.
“It’s not rocket science that the government in Juba lacks political will to implement the peace deal,” Machar’s spokesman Puok Both Buluang said.
He called on the government to release funds it had agreed to spend on rolling out the accord. The extra six months would “give room” for resolving issues, he added.
South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war, then plunged into its own conflict at the end of 2013 after Kiir sacked Machar as vice president.
Troops loyal to both men clashed in the capital Juba that December and ethnically charged fighting spread, shutting down oil fields, forcing a third of the country’s population from their homes and killing more than 400,000 people.
The peace deal has stopped the fighting. But South Sudan’s government has said it does not have the finances to fund disarmament and the integration of rebels into the army.
So far, it has allocated $10 million of the pledged $100 million, according to the international body monitoring the ceasefire.
Both sides have also disagreed on details of the deal, including the number of states South Sudan should have. Under the accord, they have agreed to hold elections after a transition period of three years.
A U.N. Security Council delegation visited Juba earlier this month in an attempt to persuade the two sides to solve their remaining disputes over the pact.
It is unlikely that fighting will resume after the missed deadline, said Alan Boswell, a senior analyst with Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group.
This is largely because most of the international community is now urging both sides to agree on a new road map by the deadline in order to salvage the deal, he said.