SPLM-IO spokesperson James Gatdet Dak

The South Sudan main armed opposition faction led by the first vice president designate, Riek Machar, has said the country will revert to the 10 states as provided for in the August 2015 peace agreement should the opposing parties fail to agree on the number of states to be created, an official said.

According to the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) spokesperson James Gatdet Dak, the creation of 28 states by the government of President Salva Kiir Mayardit was not necessary and had no legal backing.

“The peace agreement has been signed based on the constitutionally recognized 10 states at the time of signing in August 2015,” Dak said when contacted on Sunday as to whether the SPLM-IO would approve the referendum proposal from the government.

He added: “Also the recent IGAD communiqué has called for establishment of an inclusive boundary commission with membership of all the parties to the peace agreement. The commission will determine the number of states and basis for their creation within one month from formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity. In case of disagreement the parties will revert to the 10 states as simple as that.”

The development comes in the wake of government spokesman, Michael Makuei Lueth, saying on Sunday that government wants a referendum to determine the number of states, adding that Juba will not revoke the presidential decree that created the 28 states until the outcome of the referendum.

But Gatdet Dak  said the peace agreement did not provide for referendum to be conducted in determining the states, challenging the government for what he said had been its ‘fluctuating positions’ in their approach to the states of the country.

Dak further reminded that the government rejected their proposal to create 21 states based on colonial districts when the parties were negotiating in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and never came up with a counter-proposal of the number of states. They never mentioned their desire to create 28 states so that the parties could discuss it during the negotiations, he added.

He also said the government did not consult the people or ask for a referendum first when it suddenly decreed 28 states in the name of ‘popular demand’ five weeks later after President Salva Kiir had signed the peace agreement based on the 10 states.

The opposition official further said it was unnecessary to hold an expensive nationwide referendum in the face of the political and economic crisis in the country, adding it would not only be a misplaced priority or further obstacle to the implementation of the peace agreement, but also an ‘unnecessary burden’ on the people of the country with a collapsing economy.

According to Dak, the best course of action is for the government to abide by the peace agreement and the recent IGAD communiqué.

Meanwhile, the alliance of 18 South Sudanese political parties led by Lam Akol, the former detainees and the international community have also urged President Kiir to suspend the creation of the states until the parties come to a consensus, saying the decision has contributed to the inter-communal violence in the country.