BARCELONA — South Sudan's government has proposed extending President Salva Kiir's term in office for another three years, which the armed opposition calls illegal as the two sides pursue a peace deal to end a five-year civil war.
Lawmaker Atem Garang said parliament has up to one month to approve the extension of Kiir's term until 2021, which is virtually guaranteed as the ruling party holds a majority of seats.
"If they don't extend it there will be anarchy and war. You'll have a country without a government," Garang told The Associated Press.
But opposition spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel called the proposal "definitely illegal" and "anti-peace" as the warring sides pursue a peace agreement.
Kiir and former deputy-turned-rival Riek Machar met face-to-face for the first time in nearly two years in recent days in neighboring Ethiopia and Sudan, with further discussions expected in Kenya.
A "permanent" cease-fire the rivals agreed on last week was violated within hours on Saturday, with each side blaming the other. They have not yet agreed on any power-sharing agreement as part of a broader deal.
"It is contradictory to be working for a peace settlement of the political crisis while at the same time fostering the extension of the government's mandate," Edmund Yakani, director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, told the AP.
South Sudan's civil war has killed tens of thousands and created Africa's largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Millions are near famine and aid delivery is often blocked in one of the world's most dangerous countries for humanitarian workers.
Both sides have been accused of abuses including gang-rapes, sometimes along ethnic lines.
Kiir is one of a number of African leaders who have sought to stay in power recently through changing the constitution or other means, including Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza.