ADDIS ABABA: South Sudan’s president and rebel chief signed a ceasefire dead Friday cowing to end nearly five months of civil war, under international pressure to stem bloodshed and avert famine and genocide.
President Salva Kiir and rebel boss Riek Machar were congratulated for inking a deal “ending the war”, said head mediator Seyoum Mesfin, from the East African regional bloc IGAD.
The two rivals, who first shook hands and then prayed together, “agreed that immediately all hostile activities will stop within 24 hours from the signing of this agreement,” Seyoum told reporters.
“Fighting will stop,” he added.
The war has claimed thousands — and possibly tens of thousands — of lives, with over 1.2 million people forced to flee their homes.
The agreement was also signed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who is hosting the talks in Addis Ababa.
The rivals also “agreed that a transition government offers the best chance to the people of South Sudan” with the promise of fresh elections, without giving a date, Seyoum said.
Both sides also “agreed to open humanitarian corridors… and to cooperate with the UN” to ensure aid is delivered to the more than five million people in need, he added.
But top African Union official Smail Chergui, the pan-African bloc’s peace and security commissioner, said that while the inking of the deal was welcomed, “even with the signing, given the current crisis, the restoration of peace in South Sudan will not be easy.”
Aid agencies are warning that South Sudan is now on the brink of Africa’s worst famine since the 1980s.
The conflict erupted on December 15 with Kiir accusing Machar of attempting a coup. Machar then fled to the bush to launch a rebellion, insisting that the president had attempted to carry out a bloody purge of his rivals.