South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his archfoe Riek Machar, the leader of the main rebel group in the African country, have signed a final power-sharing deal in an attempt to end a bloody civil war that engulfed the youngest nation in the world during the past five years.
The two rivals, in neighboring Sudan, signed the deal, under which Machar is set to return to a unity government as the first of five vice presidents.
The deal, which attempts to pave the way for a final peace accord, was inked in the presence of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his counterparts from Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti, along with several foreign diplomats.
If the final peace deal is reached, the rivals will have three months to establish a transitional government under the new format, which will then maintain power for a another 36 months.
The power-sharing deal stipulates that there will be a total of 35 ministers in the bloated transitional government, including 20 Kiir’s allies and nine allied with Machar, along with representatives of other rebel groups.
South Sudan, the youngest country in Africa, has been gripped by a bloody civil war since December 2013, when Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup. The two sides then involved in a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the impoverished country along the ethnic lines. Tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict.
Frequent attacks on humanitarian convoys and personnel have been reported in South Sudan’s conflict and both warring sides have been blamed.
A similar deal, which returned Machar to vice presidency, was reached in 2015 but fell apart a year later in a deadly clash that forced Machar into exile.