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South Sudan President, Rebel Chief Reach Cease-Fire Deal

  • Marthe van der Wolf

South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar (R) and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (L) exchange signed peace agreement documents in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 9, 2014.

South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar (R) and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (L) exchange signed peace agreement documents in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 9, 2014.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir signed a cease-fire agreement Friday night with his rival, opposition leader Riek Machar, in Ethiopia. The agreement calls for the cease-fire to be active within 24 hours that, ending five months of conflict in the country.

The deal states that both sides have to refrain from any combat action, and they must open up humanitarian corridors. It also calls for a transitional government of national unity to take the country forward.

Kiir gave his assurance that from Saturday on, his troops will not violate the agreement. “I want to assure you that I and my party, the party I am leading and the army that I’m leading, will implement this agreement without any failure.”

The deal is very similar to the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in January, but fighting continued throughout South Sudan. Despite Friday’s signing, there remains a lot to be agreed upon in the coming weeks, such as a permanent cease-fire. The two leaders have agreed to meet again within one month.

Machar said the agreement is an important roadmap. “I want to underline to you our commitment for seeking political settlement for this problem. As you know it has started from the SPML, the differences in the SPLM and it went into government," he said. "I am satisfied with the agenda that we have drawn with the envoys. If the two parties seriously engage in dialogue, discussion, we will resolve the problem.”

Machar also said this was a “senseless war” and that he had not attempted a coup, as alleged by Kiir.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the agreement could mark a breakthrough for the future of South Sudan and urged both sides to swiftly implement it.

Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had both visited South Sudan in the past week, as part of an international push to stop the fighting there.

In a report released Thursday, the United Nations said both the South Sudanese government and the rebels may have committed crimes against humanity.

Amnesty International said its researchers saw a mass grave in the town of Bor containing as many as 530 bodies.

The unrest was sparked by a power dispute that started in mid-December between Kiir and Machar, his former deputy who was fired in July. More than 1.3 million people have been displaced, and thousands have been killed.

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