By William Davison, November 09, 2014
South Sudan’s government and rebel forces have agreed to a step-by-step implementation of a truce accord reached in January after East African nations warned they would send troops in to prevent further violence.
The detailed timetable commits the parties to specific measures including withdrawing from flash-point areas, reporting troop positions, and allowing truce-monitoring and aid agencies to operate freely, according to a statement e-mailed by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
“It’s a landmark in the process of implementation of the agreement and commitments pledged” by President Salva Kiir and former vice president and rebel leader Riek Machar, the authority’s chief regional envoy Seyoum Mesfin said in an interview today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. “I’m genuinely convinced that they will honor this commitment this time because the consequences are so big and they cannot afford to violate the cessation of hostilities agreement.”
The seven IGAD nations agreed to send additional troops into South Sudan to protect civilians if agreements are violated again, the authority said yesterday after giving the parties 15 days to finalize a power-sharing accord. Asset freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo could be imposed by the region, it said. More than 10,000 United Nations peace-keepers, including an IGAD contingent deployed earlier this year, are in South Sudan to protect civilians.
Conflict erupted in December in the oil-producing country when a power struggle within the ruling party turned violent. After Kiir arrested rivals for allegedly plotting a coup and ethnic Nuer accused soldiers loyal to the president of targeting them, commanders rebelled in three states. Machar, Kiir’s former deputy and a Nuer, fled the capital Juba and became head of rebel forces. Thousands have died and 2 million driven from their homes, according to the United Nations.
The rebels said two of their positions in Unity state were attacked yesterday, a claim that was rejected by the government. Both sides have broken the peace deal since August 22, IGAD said in a statement handed to reporters today. The government has attacked rebels in Pigi County in Jonglei state and Malakal and Panyikang counties in Upper Nile state this month, it said.
All recent violations were initiated by insurgents, the government’s chief negotiator, Nhial Deng Nhial, said in an interview today. Today’s signing makes the January truce effective, Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth, a leading member of the government delegation, said. “By signing now, I’m sure the parties will move forward,” he said in an interview in Addis Ababa today.
Rebels will respond positively if the government follows through on the deal, Lul Ruai Koang, a rebel army spokesman, said today. “Our response is going to be determined by the other party,” he said by phone from Addis Ababa. “Once they demonstrate they can be trusted, we’re going to replicate exactly what they’re doing.”