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S. Sudan Group Seeks Deal Extension    04/21 11:29

   JUBA, South Sudan (AP) -- South Sudan's opposition is calling for a 
six-month extension to implement next steps in a fragile peace deal as a major 
deadline approaches next month to form a power-sharing government between the 
president and his longtime rival.

   Opposition deputy chairman Henry Odwar told The Associated Press on Saturday 
that the extension is needed because security arrangements are not yet adequate.

   South Sudan's government rejects the idea of an extension, further raising 
concerns among observers that the peace agreement signed in September could 
fall apart. The deal ended five years of civil war that killed nearly 400,000 
people and sent millions fleeing.

   There could be a "constitutional vacuum" if opposition leader Riek Machar 
does not return to South Sudan as scheduled to form the transitional government 
that is meant to culminate in elections, government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny 
said.

   May 12 is the deadline for Machar to return and once again serve as 
President Salva Kiir's deputy, an arrangement that more than once has ended in 
gunfire. In a striking gesture meant to urge the rivals to finally make peace, 
Pope Francis knelt and kissed their feet during a meeting at the Vatican 
earlier this month.

   The opposition has expressed "serious concerns" about the agreement. It 
would be a "recipe for disaster" if Machar returns without security measures in 
place, his wife, Angelina Teny, has said.

   The committee charged with overseeing the peace deal's initial stages will 
consider the six-month extension request on Wednesday, according to the 
opposition. The committee is made up of members of the government and various 
opposition parties.

   This latest peace deal has been marked by delays and continued fighting in 
parts of the country, with key aspects yet to be implemented. South Sudan's 
internal boundaries have not yet been drawn. A unified national army has not 
been formed.

   Alan Boswell, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, warned 
that the deal would "look very flimsy if Kiir unilaterally forms a new 
government without Machar."

   South Sudanese are already wary of possible violence next month, said a 
recent report by the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, a local 
advocacy group. Without clear messaging from the parties' leaders the risk of 
citizens "panicking is high," it said.


(KA)

 
 
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