ADDIS ABABA —
South Sudan’s rebels signed an agreement Monday to finalize the implementation of the security arrangements that were part of an August peace accord.
Fighting has continued despite that cease-fire, but this latest development has all parties hopeful.
The government delegation and a group of former political leaders and detainees signed the agreement in September, but the rebels had refused.
General Taban Deng Gai said the rebels delayed because they were concerned about the volume of troops in the capital city, Juba.
“The government had the understanding that the 5,000 mentioned in the minutes were just only for them, but now they understand that we are going to share them," Gai explained. "They’re going to be shared between the two parties. This will be the first unit of the army to be unified.”
FILE - South Sudan government soldiers in the town of Koch, Unity state, South Sudan.
Talks will continue to decide on the details on the shared forces. IGAD, the East African bloc mediating, is hopeful for more progress after the signing Monday morning.
South Sudan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Bashir calls the signing a breakthrough as talks have been going on for 22 months.
“This minute, as per the agreement, is supposed to be the operationalization of the permanent cease-fire and transitional security arrangement, which is key for the implementation of other provisions," Bashir said.
A political rift between President Salva Kirr and his former deputy turned violent in December 2013. The conflict has left millions displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance.
The U.N. warned this month that nearly 4 million people in South Sudan face “severe food insecurity,” including “tens of thousands on the brink of famine” in war-torn Unity state.
Several cease-fires have been signed since January 2014, but none of them has brought peace.