South Sudan's rival leaders form govt

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (left) has formed a coalition with Riek Machar (right).
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (left) has formed a coalition with Riek Machar (right).

A new chapter has opened in South Sudan's fragile emergence from civil war as rival leaders formed a coalition government that many pray will last this time around.

A day after President Salva Kiir dissolved the previous government, opposition leader Riek Machar was sworn in as his deputy on Saturday.

Hugs and applause followed Machar's swearing-in. The development was cautiously welcomed by international onlookers.

"While much work remains to be done, this is an important milestone in the path to peace," the US embassy said in a message of congratulations.

"I rejoice with the South Sudanese, especially the displaced, hungry and grieving who waited so long," Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby tweeted.

On Thursday, Kiir and Machar announced they had agreed to form a government that is meant to lead to elections in three years' time - the first vote since independence.

Their coalition is an arrangement that has previously collapsed twice in fighting during the civil conflict that has killed nearly 400,000 people.

Australian Associated Press