May 9, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar agreed on Friday to end fighting in the country and allow humanitarian access to affected civilians.
- Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn (R) looks on as South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar (C) and president Salva Kiir (L) exchange signed peace agreement documents in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 9 May 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
Under the deal the signatories “Agree to immediately cease all hostile activities within 24 hours of the signing of this agreement, thus rededicating ourselves to the cessation of hostilities agreement of 23 January 2014, and further agree to facilitate the full deployment of [the] IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM)”.
In line with the signed guideline document, the parties also agreed to open humanitarian corridors, and “to cooperate, unconditionally with the UN and humanitarian agencies to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches affected populations in all areas of South Sudan”.
The two leaders further agreed to form a transitional government of national unity and to include all South Sudanese stakeholders in the peace process and the negotiation of an interim government to “ensure broad ownership of the agreed outcomes”.
Peace talks being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD were recently limited to the South Sudanese government and Machar’s SPLM/A in Opposition, however, under the new agreement other stakeholders, including former political detainees, opposition parties, civil society and faith-based groups, will be allowed to take part.
In comments following the signing ceremony, both Kiir and Machar expressed their willingness to implement the agreement and end hostilities.
- South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir (L), and rebel leader Riek Machar (R) shake hands and pray before signing a ceasefire agreement aimed at ending conflict in the country in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 9 May 2014 (Photo: AP/Elias Asmare)
The two leaders, who prayed together prior to signing the agreement, were later congratulated by the Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.
Machar arrived in Addis Ababa late on Thursday, while president Kiir arrived on Friday where he was received by Ethiopian foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom upon arrival at Bole international Airport.
The two parties held separate consultative meetings on Friday with the Ethiopian prime minister prior to the face to face talks brokered by IGAD.
Direct talks got underway later the same day following discussions on ways to resolve the ongoing crisis and arrangements for future transitional governance.
Ongoing peace negotiations between the two sides have failed to reach a lasting political solution to the nearly five-month-old conflict, which erupted in mid-December last year after political tensions between Kiir and his former deputy turned violent.
Kiir accused Machar, who was sacked last July, of staging a coup to overthrow his government by force – an accusation the latter denies.
Friday’s deal aims to speed up national reconciliation and to bring an immediate end to the conflict, which has killed thousands and displaced more than 1.3 million people.
The deal also ensures the inclusion of the group of SPLM leaders who were jail in connection to their involvement in the alleged coup plot, but later released without charge.
Juba initially opposed to their involvement in peace negotiations, saying talks should be restricted to the two parties directly involved in the conflict.
On Friday, Machar met with Pagan Amum, the former secretary-general of South Sudan’s ruling SPLM party, along with three other former colleagues, including Oyai Deng Ajak, Majak Agoot and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth.
The meeting was Kiir’s first face to face contact with the group of former political detainees, who had been on trial for treason before the government dropped the case.
Government and rebel negotiators signed a shaky ceasefire agreement on 23 January but the deal was never implemented, with both sides trading accusations of violating its terms.
The fighting has divided the country’s army along ethnic lines, pitting Kiir’s Dinka tribe against Machar’s Nuer group.
The UN has accused both rival groups of committing crimes against humanity, including mass killings and gang rapes.
CALLS FOR MASSIVE AID PUSH
Head of Oxfam in the country Cecilia Millan welcomed the deal as “timely breakthrough”, but warned the humanitarian consequences of the conflict would continue to be felt into the future.
“The proof of this deal will be seen on the ground. Civilians caught up in this bloody conflict need to have full confidence that they can return to their homes without fear of violence,” she said.
Millan said a massive aid effort would be needed post-conflict to meet humanitarian needs in the country, saying it was imperative that people were able to return to their homes and plant crops as soon as possible if they were to have any chance of feeding their families in coming months.
“Even if peace holds the humanitarian consequences of this crisis will linger into next year and a mammoth aid effort needs to be mobilised to meet the enormous human need,” she said.
“Without governments urgently and generously donating the extra funds we will lose the opportunity this peace deal has offered,” she added.