South Sudan extends transitional government by two years

FILE PHOTO: South Sudan's President Salva Kiir addresses a news conference at the State House in Juba, South Sudan March 28, 2022. REUTERS/Jok Solomun

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan's transitional government will remain in power for another two years, its president said on Thursday, delaying elections that were scheduled for December this year, raising concerns among Western nations supporting its peace process.

South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011, making it the world's newest nation amid celebrations and pledges of support from world powers.

Two years later, violence erupted between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy-turned-rival Riek Machar.

A peace agreement signed in September 2019, the latest in a series since the conflict began in late 2013, is largely holding but the transitional government has been slow to unify the various factions of the military into a single unit, write a new constitution and pave the way to elections.

"We have decided to prepare the soil over the next 24 months to plant the seeds of South Sudan's elections ...upon which to build a government that can complete the war on poverty, ignorance, and hopelessness," Kiir said in a live state-run radio broadcast of a meeting that approved the extension.

Puok Both Balung, Machar’s spokesperson, told Reuters elections were now slated for Dec. 20, 2024.

The United States, Britain and Norway - which have played key roles in mediating South Sudan's peace process - expressed reservations about the transitional government's extension.

"The roadmap must demonstrate how another extension would differ from previous ones and include steps for clear progress in setting up the institutions and mechanisms necessary to hold elections," the three countries' ambassadors said in a letter to Kiir, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

(Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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