OSLO (Reuters) - South Sudanese President Salva Kiir's plans to replace the country's 10 states with 28 new states is a source of serious concern, the United States, Britain and Norway said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
Kiir’s presidential order has already been denounced by rebels, who say the move violates a peace agreement to end nearly two years of fighting that stipulates rebel leader Riek Machar must be consulted on major government issues.
Machar’s rebels also worry the division of states will weaken their position within the government if the two sides start working with one another, as rebel governors would get fewer key posts.
"This announcement directly contradicts the government of South Sudan's commitment to implement the peace agreement it signed on Aug. 26," the troika said.
"We strongly urge President Kiir to defer action on this fundamental matter until the Transitional Government of National Unity is formed and a national constitutional dialogue can take place."
The three nations form a group that supported a 2005 accord leading to the independence of South Sudan from Sudan. South Sudan split away in 2011 under the terms of a peace deal that ended decades of north-south civil war.
But a political row between Kiir and his sacked deputy Machar descended into fighting inside the country in December 2013, often along ethnic faultlines.
The fragile peace agreement was brokered this summer but South Sudanese rebels said on Saturday government troops had attacked their positions.
Kiir critics also say that by issuing a presidential order he bypassed the parliament, which was due to have a say on how the borders were divided.
(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Additional reporting by Denis Dumo; Editing by Alison Williams)