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South Sudan’s rebel leader rejects president’s peace offer

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar arrives to attend a prayer for peace event at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, in Rome, Italy, on April 11, 2019. (File photo by AP)

Rebels in South Sudan have rejected a peace proposal by the president that would have seen the country returning to an original system of ten states plus three new regions.

President Salva Kiir on Saturday proposed that the county be divided in the original 10 states, as had been demanded by the rebels, plus the three “administrative areas” of Pibor, Ruweng, and Abyei.

The offer was however rejected by rebel leader Riek Machar, who objected to the idea of the three new areas.

Machar, who lives in exile, called on the president “to reconsider this idea of creating administrative areas.” It “cannot be referred to as reverting to 10 states (and) as such cannot be accepted,” Machar said.

When it gained independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan had 10 states, as set out in its constitution. The president increased the number of the states to 28 in 2015, and then to 32.

Kiir issued an order late Saturday relieving all governors of the 32 states of their posts and changed the number of the states back to 10, plus the three areas.

Among the three regions, Ruweng in the north, which is believed to be rich in oil resources, is claimed by both Kiir’s Dinka people and Machar’s Nuer tribe.

South Sudan was gripped by a bloody civil war only two years after independence in December 2013. The two sides have been involved in a cycle of attacks and retaliatory killings. Tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced so far.

Both sides have been under pressure from the international community to resolve their differences.

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