South Sudan President Salva Kiir has ordered the number of regional states be nearly tripled, his spokesman said Saturday, undermining a fundamental pillar of a power-sharing deal to end civil war.Kiir, who has been fighting to crush a rebellion since December 2013 in which tens of thousands have been killed, the economy destroyed and war zone regions pushed to the brink of famine, signed an August 26 peace agreement to end the war.
Months of negotiations led to the internationally-brokered deal, including a transitional government and a complex power-sharing formula in which rebels get a share of seats at national and state levels.
The rebels, led by former vice president Riek Machar, also choose the powerful governor posts in the northern battleground states of Unity and Upper Nile, the country's main oil production zones.
The creation of new states threatens to undermine those key power-sharing arrangements and slow implementation of the peace deal.
The order, broadcast on state radio late Friday, increases the current 10 states to 28, rendering the agreed power sharing formula redundant.
"The government has ordered there to be 28 states," presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told AFP.
"This is about giving more power to the people through better service delivery," he added, saying the government remained committed to the peace deal.
In a statement, Machar said the decree, "issued unilaterally... is a clear violation of the peace agreement," which "is based on 10 states."
Both sides are accused of having perpetrated ethnic massacres, recruited and killed children and carried out widespread rape, torture and forced displacement of populations to "cleanse" areas of their opponents.
The army and rebels have repeatedly traded blame, accusing each other of breaking the ceasefire, the eighth such agreement to have been signed.
South Sudan media reported fresh fighting on Friday in the Koch district of Unity state.
The presidential order must now be passed by parliament -- almost entirely in support of Kiir -- before becoming law.
Ateny added he expected that to happen "within one month."