News / Africa

South Sudan Ceasefire Agreement Signed

Nhial Deng Nhial, 2nd left, the head of South Sudan's negotiating team, and top negotiator for the rebel's side, Taban Deng Gai, right, a general in South Sudan's army before he defected, sign a cessation of hostilities agreement on Jan. 23, 2014.
Nhial Deng Nhial, 2nd left, the head of South Sudan's negotiating team, and top negotiator for the rebel's side, Taban Deng Gai, right, a general in South Sudan's army before he defected, sign a cessation of hostilities agreement on Jan. 23, 2014.
TEXT SIZE - +
Marthe van der Wolf
— Negotiators for the South Sudan government and opposition forces signed two agreements Thursday to end nearly six weeks of conflict that have claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than half a million.

The agreements, which were signed in the Ethiopian capital, call for military action to cease immediately and for the release of 11 political leaders who were jailed when the conflict began on Dec. 15 to be expedited to allow them to play a key role in the young country's reconciliation process.

The agreements came after weeks of talks brokered by the East African bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

One of the terms of the cessation of hostilities agreement, which is set to take effect 24 hours after the signing ceremony, is that all forces and armed groups "invited by either side" be redeployed or "progressively withdrawn" from the "theater of operations."

Uganda sent troops to fight alongside the South Sudanese army during the conflict, which was touched off in mid-December by a gunbattle at army headquarters in Juba, the capital. President Salva Kiir said the Dec. 15 clashes were an attempted coup, led by his former vice president Riek Machar, who has denied the accusation.

The ceasefire agreement also calls for an end to "hostile propaganda" and attacks against civilians, and for pro- and anti-government forces to refrain from acts of violence including rape, torture, summary executions, mass displacements and the use of child soldiers.

Both sides have been accused of committing gross human rights violations.

Displaced people walk past razor wire at Tomping camp, where some 15,000 displaced people who fled their homes are sheltered by the United Nations, near Juba, South Sudan, Jan. 7, 2014.Displaced people walk past razor wire at Tomping camp, where some 15,000 displaced people who fled their homes are sheltered by the United Nations, near Juba, South Sudan, Jan. 7, 2014.
x
Displaced people walk past razor wire at Tomping camp, where some 15,000 displaced people who fled their homes are sheltered by the United Nations, near Juba, South Sudan, Jan. 7, 2014.
Displaced people walk past razor wire at Tomping camp, where some 15,000 displaced people who fled their homes are sheltered by the United Nations, near Juba, South Sudan, Jan. 7, 2014.
Humanitarian corridors must be opened, and the hundreds of thousands who fled their homes must be given assistance to return to them, the agreement says. It also calls for South Sudanese leaders to facilitate the reunion of families separated during the fighting.

A team will be set up to monitor the ceasefire agreement and ensure that its terms are abided by. Called the Monitoring and Verification Team, it will report to IGAD.

The lead IGAD mediator at the peace negotiations, Ethiopian diplomat Seyoum Mesfin, urged the two sides to keep the momentum of the signing of the accords going and take steps to ensure that peace and reconciliation take root in South Sudan.

Both sides must “...implement any agreements that they signed, in good faith and with full commitment," he said.

They must also "begin to work towards rehabilitation and support the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees," and "continue with political dialogue and work towards an all-inclusive national reconciliation," he said.

The pacts were signed for the government by Nhial Deng Nhial and Taban Deng Gai for the opposition.

The two sides had little to say to each other during the signing ceremony, which got under way several hours after it was supposed to.

But lead government negotiator Nhial expressed concern about whether the opposition would be able to get its fighters to respect the terms of the ceasefire.

"Given that the bulk of the rebel army is made up of civilians who are not subject to military discipline, orders to stop fighting may not be obeyed," Nhial said.

"This will certainly make a mockery of the agreement.  We therefore urge IGAD and the broader international community to pay special attention to this problem," said Nhial.

Lead opposition negotiator Taban Deng Gai said the opposition did not initiate the violence.

Head of the rebel delegation General Taban Deng Gai, addresses journalists during South Sudan's negotiations in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 8, 2014.Head of the rebel delegation General Taban Deng Gai, addresses journalists during South Sudan's negotiations in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 8, 2014.
x
Head of the rebel delegation General Taban Deng Gai, addresses journalists during South Sudan's negotiations in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 8, 2014.
Head of the rebel delegation General Taban Deng Gai, addresses journalists during South Sudan's negotiations in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 8, 2014.
“Our core goal has always been reforms, democratization of the political process within the SPLM party and peaceful transfer of power," said Gai.
        
Fighting in South Sudan broke out in mid-December between backers of President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar.

The next phase of the peace process between the South Sudanese government and the opposition is expected to start on February 7 and should include the participation of the 11 detainees.


U.S., U.N. hail ceasefire deal


U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the cessation of hostility agreement, calling it "a critical first step toward building a lasting peace" in South Sudan, and called on the young country's leaders to build on the momentum of the signing of the peace deal, and "fully and immediately implement the agreement and start an inclusive political dialogue to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict."

"The full participation of political detainees currently being held by the Government of South Sudan will be critical to those discussions, and we will continue to work to expedite their release," Obama said in a statement.

The U.S. president also called for those who are found to have committed atrocities during nearly six weeks of unrest in the country to be held accountable and vowed that the United States will remain a "steady partner" to "those working for a more peaceful, democratic, unified South Sudan."

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf called the agreement "a critical first step toward building a lasting peace in South Sudan," but added that it was "only the beginning of a much longer process to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict, to foster reconciliation, and to hold accountable those who committed horrific abuses against the South Sudanese people."

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement and urged the two sides in the conflict to keep the momentum going with a "national political dialogue to reach a comprehensive peace agreement, with the participation of all South Sudanese political and civil society representatives, including the SPLM detainees."

In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 and released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), civilians fleeing violence seek refuge at the UNMISS compound in Bor, capital of Jonglei state, in South Sudan.In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 and released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), civilians fleeing violence seek refuge at the UNMISS compound in Bor, capital of Jonglei state, in South Sudan.
x
In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 and released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), civilians fleeing violence seek refuge at the UNMISS compound in Bor, capital of Jonglei state, in South Sudan.
In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 and released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), civilians fleeing violence seek refuge at the UNMISS compound in Bor, capital of Jonglei state, in South Sudan.
The United Nations has provided shelter on its bases and in its compounds for some 70,000 people who fled towns and villages wracked by fighting in South Sudan. More than half a million people have been forced from their homes, including more than 100,000 people who have fled to neighboring countries including Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Although no death toll has been established for the violence in South Sudan, the United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, said after a visit there last week that "many thousands" have died. 


 

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: pastis from: nigeria
January 24, 2014 5:46 PM
Greedy politicians under the guise of democratic reforms have seen to the death of innocent citizens who care less of the resources and riches that has blinded the political class. As much as it doesn't surprise me, it is a shame that African leaders including the people have no value for life!


by: chima from: Lagos
January 24, 2014 5:08 AM
It is a shame that SS politicians are divided once again along tribal lines to suffocate and malign democratic norms all in the effort to amass wealth and power. The present govt must make way for another via elections as quickly as possible. African politicians must begin to value human lives and stop wasting it Enough is enough.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid