South Sudan, rebels sign cease-fire
South Sudan's government and rebels sign a cease-fire deal that leaders hope will put a pause to five weeks of warfare that has killed thousands.PT1M40S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-31dsl 620 349 January 24, 2014
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: South Sudan's government and rebels signed a ceasefire on Thursday to end more than five weeks of fighting that divided Africa's newest nation and brought it to the brink of civil war.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council welcomed the news, but several diplomatic sources in New York said they were worried the killing could continue.
Fighting between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing the vice-president he sacked in July, Riek Machar, erupted in mid-December.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, left, with his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta during peace talks on Boxing Day at Mr Kiir's office in Juba. Photo: AFP
Thousands of people have been killed and more than half a million people have fled their homes, prompting the regional grouping of nations, IGAD, to initiate peace talks.
The pact is expected to be implemented within 24 hours of the signing, mediators said.
But making the ceasefire hold could test Mr Machar, whose forces include his own loyalists as well as more autonomous groups.
"The crisis that gripped South Sudan is a mere manifestation of the challenges that face the young and fledgling state," Seyoum Mesfin, IGAD's chief mediator, told the signing ceremony.
"I believe that the postwar challenges will be greater than the war itself. The process will be . . . unpredictable and delicate."
South Sudan's defence minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk, told Reuters on January 17 before the deal was reached that Mr Machar did not have enough control to make a ceasefire stick in the oil-producing nation, one of Africa's poorest.
Just one day before the agreement, Mr Machar had insisted he would continue fighting Mr Kiir until the government collapsed.
The conflict has turned along ethnic faultlines, pitting the Nuer group to which Mr Machar belongs against Mr Kiir's ethnic group, the Dinkas. Analysts say the ceasefire does not resolve the broader power struggle.
Both sides had said several times since talks began at the start of January that they were close to a deal, but disagreements had pushed back a signing. Meanwhile, fighting raged, with the government retaking major towns from rebel forces.
"This deal does not provide answers to South Sudan's current problems. We need a comprehensive political deal," said one rebel official in the Ethiopian capital. "We are only signing because we, and they, are under pressure."
Ordinary people in South Sudan's capital Juba were also sceptical.
"It can solve some of the immediate problems but not all the problems," said 31-year-old Samuel Kuir Chok. "I'm not optimistic . . . because this guy (Mr Machar) wants to be president at all costs."
The ceasefire was accompanied by an agreement on the "question of detainees". Rebels had demanded the release of 11 of Mr Machar's allies, detained by the government and accused of attempting a coup.
Mr Seyoum, the chief mediator, told reporters the deal provided for the 11 to eventually participate in the peace process - but that they must first face due process of law.
Shortly before the signing, rebel spokesman Mabior Garang said freeing the detainees was "not so much of a demand since everyone recognises the need for their release".
The rebels have also demanded that Uganda, which openly admitted to helping Mr Kiir's forces, leave South Sudan.
Diplomats at the talks had said the deal would call for an end to "involvement by foreign forces", but Hussein Mar Nyot, the spokesman for Mr Machar's delegation, said it called for a "withdrawal of allied forces invited by both sides".