January 27, 2014 (JUBA) - On a visit to Juba on Monday, Norway’s foreign minister urged the warring parties in South Sudan to respect and implement the "shaky" ceasefire accord, which was signed last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Minister Borge Brende, who spoke to the media and after holding a meeting with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Monday, said he had constructive discussions over a host of issues relating to the six-week-old conflict.
The role being played by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) - a seven-member East African regional bloc - and the Troika, which consists of Norway, United Kingdom and the United States - all of whom played a key role with IGAD in negotiating and implementing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011.
"We talked about the ceasefire which is very important for the delivery of the humanitarian assistance and the return of the internally displaced persons to their homes. The ceasefire must be monitored and implemented because it is shaky", Minister Brende told reporters.
Eighteen unarmed IGAD monitors are to oversee implementation of the ceasefire agreement.
South Sudan’s deputy foreign minister, Peter Bashir Gbandi, who accompanied the Norwegian minister to the meeting with the president, said his country welcomed the visit of the Norwegian official.
"This is a very important visit which we value very much. You know that [the] Norwegian government and its people played a very important role during the war of liberation struggle. Norway was one of the few countries which stood with us, providing humanitarian assistance and in pushing for peace", he said.
Meanwhile South Sudan’s foreign minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said his government remained "committed" to fully respect and implement the ceasefire. Since the agreement was signed on 23 January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, both sides have accused the other of violating the deal.
"Our forces have got orders with clear instructions from the government not to move to the areas under the other group and they are respecting. They never moved", Marial told reporters.
Colonel Philip Aguer, the spokesperson of South Sudan’s army (SPLA), accused the rebels, who are mainly defectors from the army who mutinied follow fighting between soldiers in the Presidential Guard on December 15.
The conflict, between supporters of President Salva Kiir and those his former deputy, Riek Machar occurred after weeks of heightened tension within the ruling SPLM, the political wing of the former rebels that fought for South Sudanese independence for over a decade.
However, since 2005 the SPLA has absorbed many of the region’s other armed groups and has struggled to transform from a guerrilla force into a professional national army.
Aguer accused the rebels of "multiple violations" of the ceasefire, claiming that forces aligned to Machar, who Kiir sacked in July last year, carried out attacks on their positions on Sunday.
"There were reports of fighting of the attack carried out the rebels on the positions of our forces outside Malakal town" in oil-producing Upper Nile state. Unity state, which is home to South Sudan main oil fields has also been an epicentre for the rebellion.
The SPLA spokesperson said other attacks took place in Jonglei state.
"All these attacks were carried out by the rebels on our positions. Our forces never moved out from their current positions”, Aguer said in a statement.