WASHINGTON/KHARTOUM - Rebel leader Riek Machar and leaders of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance have signed a revitalized peace deal aimed at ending the country’s nearly five-year civil war.
Machar signed the deal Thursday night in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, after refusing to sign two days earlier.
The deal leaves the contentious issue of South Sudan’s number of states and their boundaries to be worked out later by the heads of state in the East African regional bloc IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development).
Regional leaders, the international community, and the people of South Sudan are hoping the agreement will finally end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 4 million South Sudanese from their homes, with at least 2 million fleeing the country.
In June, the warring parties signed a cease-fire and power-sharing deal, but other issues were left unresolved.
Machar’s SPLM-in Opposition (SPLM-IO) and other South Sudanese opposition parties backed out of signing the revitalized 2015 peace deal earlier this week, saying their reservations were overlooked in the draft agreement.
SPLM-IO spokesman Manawa Peter Gatkuoth said the opposition leaders agreed to sign after several meetings with Sudanese mediators.
On Wednesday night, Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, promised Machar and other opposition leaders that their reservations over governance issues would be discussed at an upcoming IGAD summit in Sudan.
“We will put [forth] our conditions to sign the document regarding the mechanism of decision-making in the government, also issues related to the mandate of U.N. forces that will guarantee the peace agreement,” Manawa told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus program.
Manawa said he is hopeful South Sudan’s government and other peace partners will cooperate with opposition leaders to resolve the war’s underlying issues once and for all.
“We agree in the process, we put [down] our solutions and we hope that the government in Juba will look into it because we don’t want to sign an agreement and go back to war again,” Manawa told VOA.
The Sudanese mediation team said following the signing ceremony, a workshop on the pre-transitional security arrangement would take place in the coming two days.