South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has dissolved parliament, opening the way for lawmakers from opposing sides of the country’s civil war to be appointed under a 2018 peace accord.
The president dissolved parliament on Saturday and the new body will be formed in “a matter of time, not too long”, his spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told Reuters.
The setting up of a new legislative body was part of an accord signed in September 2018 between Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, for years on opposing sides during the five-year civil war that led to 380,000 people’s death and displaced four million.
According to the deal that ended the civil war, parliament must be expanded from 400 members to 550 and must include members from all parties to the peace accord.
Activists and civil society groups welcomed the dissolution of parliament, saying it was long overdue but also expressing distrust.
“It is a welcome development and we hope that the dissolution [will] also open the way to a lengthy process towards reconstituting the parliament,” said Jame David Kolok, chairman of the South Sudan Civil Society Forum.
“The civil society is getting frustrated and no longer believes that even if the parliament is reconstituted it will be a very viable parliament.”
South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of civil war. Violence erupted in late 2013 after Kiir, from the Dinka ethnic group, sacked vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer.
The two men have signed many deals to end a war estimated to have killed more than 400,000 people. They repeatedly pushed back deadlines to form a government of national unity, but in 2020 finally did so.
Despite the peace deal, violence is still raging in parts of the country, according to United Nations reports.