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27 Aug 2015 10:50
Rebel leader Riek Machar is expected to become South Sudan's first vice-president. (AFP)
South Sudan’s president signed a peace deal on Wednesday to end a 20-month conflict with rebels,
but he told regional African leaders at the ceremony that he
still had “serious reservations”.
President Salva Kiir, who has led South Sudan since it
seceded from Sudan in 2011, last week asked for more time for
consultations, drawing threats of UN sanctions if he failed to
ink it within a two-week deadline.
“With all those reservations that we have, we will sign this
document,” he told African leaders gathered in Juba for the
ceremony, speaking shortly before he signed.
Rebel leader Riek Machar, Kiir’s long-time rival who is
expected to become the country’s first vice-president under the
deal, signed the document last week in the Ethiopian capital.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the signing of the peace
deal, but his spokesperson noted in a statement that it must be
“Now is the time to ensure that this agreement translates
into an end to the violence, hardship and horrific human rights
violations witnessed throughout this conflict,” the statement
Thousands of people have been killed since the conflict
erupted in December 2013 after a power struggle between Machar,
an ethnic Nuer, and Kiir, from the dominant Dinka group. The
fighting has increasingly followed ethnic lines, unsettling an
already volatile region.
Many of the 11-million population have been driven to the
brink of starvation and two million people have fled their homes,
often to neighbouring states.
The deal follows months of on-off negotiations, hosted by
Ethiopia, and several broken ceasefire agreements.
The rebels on Wednesday said that there had been other bout
of fighting with government forces and they captured a town
south of Juba after their troops were attacked.
But Kiir told the ceremony that the rebels had launched a
raid in the north of the country earlier in the day.
“Now you can see who is for peace and who is for continued
war,” he said.
Kiir also gave a document to regional leaders listing his
Mediators have said Kiir had voiced concerns about a
demand that Juba become a demilitarised zone and conditions that
he consult the first vice-president on policy.
Machar, who was Kiir’s deputy until he was sacked in 2013,
has also conveyed doubts about aspects of powersharing.
Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security
adviser, said the United States welcomed the deal as a “first
step” toward ending the conflict, but that it would take “hard
work” to implement the agreement.
“However, we do not recognise any reservations or addendums
to that agreement”, Rice said in a statement. “We will work with
our international partners to sideline those who stand in the
way of peace, drawing upon the full range of our multilateral
and bilateral tools,” Rice said.
US State Department spokesperson John Kirby went a step
further, saying that if Kiir acted on his reservations and
reneged on the deal the United States would support further UN
sanctions, though he did not give specifics.
The United States had proposed a United Nations arms embargo
and more sanctions from September 6 unless the pact was signed by
the 15-day deadline given to Kiir last week.
At the ceremony, Kiir said he had faced intimidation during
the peace process and added negotiations were handled
“carelessly” by regional and world leaders, saying a poor
agreement could backfire on the region.
In comments echoed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Kenyan President
Uhuru Kenyatta said it was a “happy day for us in the region”
that the deal had been signed, and that South Sudan’s leaders
now need to focus on the future. - Reuters
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