South Sudan to Hold Talks on Disputed New-States Structure

South Sudan’s transitional presidency agreed to negotiate the restructuring of the nation’s regional states, an issue complicating a deal to end a more than two-year civil war, officials said.

A government formed in late April by President Salva Kiir and ex-rebels led by his deputy, Riek Machar, is seeking to improve economic management, public administration and the security services before elections at the end of a 30-month transitional period. The August deal was challenged later that year when a decree from Kiir increased the number of states to 28 from 10, a move criticized by international backers of the peace process.

A 15-member committee, which includes four Kiir allies, three from Machar’s camp, other politicians, and representatives from the U.K., Norway, U.S., South Africa and Tanzania, will spend 30 days assessing the number and borders of the new states, Machar spokesman Nyarji Roman said on Thursday.

The conflict that began in December 2013 has left tens of thousands of people dead and forced more than 2 million to flee their homes. It’s also slashed crude output in the country, home to sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest reserves, to as little as 120,000 barrels per day.

The committee will assess the “viability” of the 28 states and report back to the presidency, which will make the final decision, said presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny. “Their task is to study the boundaries, what are the conflicts around the boundaries, and then come back with recommendations,” he said by phone from Juba, the capital, on Thursday.

Machar, Kiir and second Vice President James Wani Igga also agreed that Machar’s former insurgents in Greater Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal areas would be assigned military bases, Ateny said.

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