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S. Sudan Rebels Hopeful About Peace Deal

FILE - South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar, center-left with back to camera, shakes hands with South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, center-right wearing a black hat, after lengthy peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Aug. 17, 2015.

South Sudanese rebels say they are hopeful a newly-signed peace treaty will be carried out and bring an end to the country's 20-month civil war.

At a news conference in Nairobi Thursday, rebel representatives called on the government and their own side to adhere to the peace treaty, signed by President Salva Kiir in Juba on Wednesday.

Dhieu Mathok Wol, the deputy chief negotiator for rebels at peace talks in Ethiopia, said his side is prepared to make the treaty a reality.

“We are ready. We commit ourselves to the implementation of this peace agreement. We believe that [in] the next 72 hours, the process of [a] permanent cease-fire which is stipulated in the peace agreement will take place and we will realize stability in our country,” Wol said.

President Kiir expressed strong reservations about the agreement Wednesday, and rebel chief Riek Machar said that "casts doubt" on the government's commitment to the treaty.

Low-level fighting was reported in the town of Bentiu on Thursday.

Rights abuse allegations

The U.N. and the African Union have accused the warring parties of committing human rights abuses during the conflict, including the forced recruitment of child soldiers.

But Stephen Par Kuol, the spokesman for the rebels at the peace talks, was upbeat that the treaty will finally usher in justice for the aggrieved.

“The AU report is very important. The AU Commission report has been partially released, as you know. We welcome that it might be made public through the judicial process. This agreement, we have hybrid courts that [are] being established by the agreement and [it] will be negotiated soon how to establish that body.”

The civil war in South Sudan broke out in December 2013, after a fallout between President Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar. The fighting has killed thousands and forced an estimated 2.2 million South Sudanese from their homes.

Michael Tut, a refugee from South Sudan, barely escaped the conflict and lost three of his relatives in the town of Bor. But Tut said he is hopeful peace can be achieved.

“I’m optimistic if the two warring parties are committed, a long lasting peace will be achieved in South Sudan, because since the onset of the conflict it has been so difficult for the people of South Sudan to live like as other people in the world,”

The United States had proposed an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctions against top leaders beginning September 6, unless Kiir signed the pact. Machar had signed the agreement earlier.