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.
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the signing ceremony, is that all forces and armed groups "invited by either side" be redeployed or "progressively withdrawn" from the "theater of operations."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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs