JUBA    -    South Sudan has said the suspension of neighboring Sudan from the African Union (AU) will not derail the September 2018 peace where Khartoum is the guarantor.

South Sudan information minister and government spokesman Michael Makuei told reporters late Friday that Sudan’s suspension from the AU will have minimal impact on the implementation of the pact since the east African regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is still spearheading peace efforts in the South Sudan.

“Now that the AU has suspended Sudan, we are looking at IGAD as a guarantor to support the peace. So, it (suspension) will not affect the implementation process, “Makuei told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting.

Sudan was suspended from the Pan-African body following Thursday’s violence in the capital Khartoum that killed dozens of protestors. Sudan and Uganda are guarantors to South Sudan’s peace deal that seeks to end nearly six years of violent conflict.

James Okuk, senior research fellow at the Center for Strategic and Policy Studies, a Juba-based think tank, said Khartoum’s suspension from the AU will not bring negative effects on peace efforts in the world’s youngest nation if the parties to the deal can commit to its implementation and avoid going back to war.

Okuk said that the success of South Sudan’s peace process depends on stability in its northern neighbor because more violence in Sudan would interrupt the flow of the country’s main revenue generator, oil, which is exported through Sudan.

“The fact that Sudan is the only IGAD country suspended by the AU, it will not affect South Sudan’s peace process because other members are still there to oversee the process,” Okuk said. “If they (parties to the agreement) manage to the right thing, the suspension will have no effect on the peace implementation.”

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013 and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally. A peace deal signed in August 2015 collapsed following renewed violence in the capital Juba in July 2016.

Under the 2018 peace deal, opposition leader Riek Machar with four others will once again be reinstated as Kiir’s deputy.

Signatories to the fragile peace agreement on May 3 agreed to extend the formation of the transitional government by six months following delays in the implementation of the pact over unresolved issues.