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the signing ceremony, is that all forces and armed groups "invited by either side" be redeployed or "progressively withdrawn" from the "theater of operations."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

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid