South Sudan’s warring factions on Thursday signed a new agreement to cease military hostilities and protect civilians in the latest effort to calm a devastating civil war.
The ceasefire, according to the deal, will begin Sunday morning.
The ceasefire aims to revive a 2015 peace deal that collapsed last year after heavy fighting broke out in the South Sudan capital, Juba.
Representatives from South Sudan’s Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) and the armed opposition faction were present at the signing of the ceasefire deal in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, descended into violence in mid-December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and the country’s former vice-president, Riek Machar.
However, the 2015 peace agreement signed in Addis Ababa end the conflict did not hold after renewed outbreak of violence in July 2016 forced Machar to flee the South Sudan capital, Juba into exile.
The African Union Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat said, “I do hope in signing this agreement, you [warring factions] will try to put an end to this tragedy. This is an encouraging first phase”.
On Thursday, United States, Britain and Norway issued a statement welcoming the agreement and congratulated the parties on their “willingness to compromise for the benefit of the people of South Sudan.”
The statement called on all parties to implement the agreement “immediately,” including providing humanitarian access to affected areas.
The three nations, known as the Troika, also called on all parties in the South Sudan conflict to address the security and governance concerns that are, as quoted in the statement, “essential for peace.”
Also present at the occasion was Ethiopia’s foreign affairs minister, Workneh Gebeyehu who warned against violations of human rights.
“All parties are obliged to observe cessation of hostilities agreement,” he said.
In June, a summit of IGAD heads of state and government decided to convene a meeting of the signatories of the South Sudan peace agreement to discuss ways to revitalize the peace implementation.
KIIR REJECTS PEACE DEAL RENEGOTIATION
Meanwhile, a South Sudanese official said President Kiir instructed those representing coalition government at the revitalization forum not to accept renegotiation of the August 2015 peace agreement.
The cabinet affairs minister, Martin Elia Lomuro announced this during opening of the revitalization forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The objective of the forum, he said, was to discuss ways to restore permanent ceasefire, full implementation of the peace agreement and develop revised, realistic timeliness and implementation schedule for the conduct of democratic elections at the end of the transitional period clearly provides the agenda for the forum.
“Your excellency, the chair, brothers and sisters, on our part as the TGONU (Transitional Government of National Unity), comprising of the parties to the agreement as provided for in chapter 1, sub-article 3.1.4, of the ARCSS (Agreement on the resolution of conflict in the republic of South Sudan), we have come with unequivocal instructions from President Salva Kiir Mayardit, and his two deputies, to engage constructively, within the confines of the agreed IGAD ( Intergovernmental Authority on Development) principles of the HLRF( High Level Revitalization Forum), particularly that (1) the forum is to energise, re-activate and revitalize rather than renegotiate of ARCSS and (ii) that the forum should review the ARCSS implementation status to provide the basis for the conduct of the HLRF,” said Lomuro.
He added, “So brothers and sisters, we stand ready to engage as ordered in good faith and with focus for the success of this meeting”.
South Sudan’s government earlier warned that the revitalization forum initiated by the regional bloc that mediated the 2015 peace accord should not be another platform for negotiations of the peace accord between the two factions to the conflict.