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South Sudan Parliament, Machar's Rebels Ratify IGAD Peace Deal

South Sudan President Salva Kiir, seated, signs a peace deal as Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, center-left, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, center-right, and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, right, look on in Juba, South Sudan, Aug. 26, 2015. Rebel leader Riek Machar signed the deal nine days earlier.

South Sudan's National Assembly and rebels loyal to Riek Machar on Thursday separately ratified the agreement signed last month to end 20 months of fighting in the young country.

Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly at a special parliamentary session in Juba to ratify the deal, which regional bloc IGAD put together over 19 months of stop-and-start talks between the warring sides.

In a seprate vote at the Upper Nile headquarters of Machar's SPLM-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO), leaders of the rebel group also "voted unanimously to ratify and adopt the agreement," SPLM-IO official Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth said.

The agreement, which Machar signed in Addis Ababa on August 17 and Mr. Kiir signed nine days later in Juba, calls for a ceasefire to take effect within 72 hours of the peace deal being signed by all parties; for a government of national unity to be formed by November, and for a permanent constitution to be drawn up for South Sudan.

The deal also outlines security measures that will be in effect during the transitional period, including the demilitarization of Juba and three other towns.

The government and the armed opposition led by Machar have ordered their forces to lay down arms and respect the ceasefire, which officially took effect late last month.

There are, however, reports of heavy fighting in parts of South Sudan, notably in the main oil-producing state, Upper Nile.

A group that split last month from Machar's rebel movement has told South Sudan in Focus that it is behind the fighting in Upper Nile.

Gathoth Gatkuoth, who until last month as a commander in Machar's SPLM-IO, said the breakaway rebel group is continuing to do battle in Upper Nile because it rejects the leadership of both Mr. Kiir and Machar.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
    Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
    A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon