South Sudan President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar have agreed to postpone the formation of a coalition government for 100 days.
The rival leaders were to have formed a unity government by November 12, but after meeting in Uganda for six hours Thursday, they said that security and governance issues needed to be resolved before they could form a government together.
Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal in September 2018, under pressure from the United Nations, United States and regional governments to end a five-year civil war that devastated the world’s youngest country.
Both sides blame each other for not meeting milestones stipulated by the peace deal, especially the integration of different fighting forces.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni mediated the Kampala meeting which was held to try to salvage the peace deal designed to prevent South Sudan from sliding back into civil war.
Uganda's Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa made the announcement of the extension, attracting applause from Machar's delegation who had been pressing for the deadline to delayed.
Thursday’s meeting “was held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere”, the Ugandan statement said.
Both sides agreed that there were “critical tasks” related to the deal that were not yet complete, particularly related to “security arrangements and governance”, it added.
A spokesman for Machar praised the new agreement.
“This is good and will enable the security arrangements to be completed if resources are availed as required”, spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel told Reuters by phone after the meeting ended.
There was no immediate comment from Kiir.
It was agreed that during the 100-day period, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan would work with the regional group, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, to resolve all outstanding issues hampering the formation of a new South Sudanese government in which Kiir would be president and Machar one of the vice presidents.
South Sudan is slowly emerging from five years of fighting that killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions. A fragile power-sharing agreement signed last September has been riddled with delays and a lack of funding. The formation of a unity government has already been delayed once due to outstanding issues including security arrangements and defining the number of states.
At least one aid group is urging South Sudan's government to use the extension to focus on the country's dire humanitarian situation. Almost 1 million people have been affected by flooding across the country, last week the government declared a state of emergency in 27 counties.
"The South Sudan government must prioritize meeting humanitarian needs now, not in 100 days. Many will not survive another 100 days if nothing changes," said Martin Omukuba, South Sudan country director at the International Rescue Committee.