South Sudan rivals agree to ‘permanent’ ceasefire
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar have agreed to a “permanent” ceasefire to take effect within 72 hours, raising hopes of a peace deal to end their country’s devastating civil war.
“A permanent ceasefire is hereby declared throughout the republic of South Sudan and shall enter into force within 72 hours of the signing of this declaration of agreement,” announced Sudan’s Foreign Minister Al-Dirdiri Mohamed Ahmed, on Wednesday.
Kiir and Machar, a former vice president of South Sudan, signed the document in the presence of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
The latest push for peace in South Sudan comes as part of a fresh bid launched by East African leaders with the two fighting factions facing a looming deadline to avert UN sanctions.
Several previous ceasefire agreements have been violated.
Under the latest deal, the two warring sides have agreed to a four-month period, which would be followed by another transition phase of 36 months.
“What Sudan came up with by bringing those two sides together is a new transitional period for the warring sides, a new ceasefire mechanism and they also included European Union (EU) troops, as well as troops from the East Africa regional bloc, called IGAD, to try to see if the ceasefire is actually being implemented,” said Al Jazeera’s Hiba Mogran.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has led multiple rounds of peace talks on South Sudan’s ruinous civil war
Kiir and Machar had already signed a peace agreement in August 2015, which eventually collapsed in July 2016 when fighting broke out between the two sides in the capital, Juba.
The Khartoum negotiations came after a
round of talks brokered by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week in Addis Ababa faltered.
On arriving in Khartoum, Kiir and Machar expressed their readiness to talk peace as the dialogue opened in the presence of Bashir and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent Morgan, who has covered the civil war in South Sudan extensively, said the latest deal is “not a lot different” from all the past ones and “relies purely on goodwill”.
“And this is not much to go by if we judge by the past agreements that have been broken in South Sudan,” she said.
South Sudan’s war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced about four million, broke out in December 2013 when Kiir accused his then-deputy Machar of plotting a coup, dashing the optimism that accompanied independence from Sudan just two years earlier.
Since then, the conflict has expanded and fighting has intensified with more than a dozen warring factions – most of them under the umbrella called South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) – who are not part of the Khartoum agreement.
“There will be more talks, probably in the future to try to include them [SSOA factions] in this agreement and this is only a framework agreement, so its basically a guideline for further agreements to be signed between the president and the opposition and hopefully the other factions will also be included in the future,” said Al Jazeera’s Morgan.