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.
U.S. President Barack Obama, U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon and the U.N. 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. 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. More than
70,000 people have sought refuge at U.N. bases around the
country after peacekeepers, in an unusual move, opened their
gates to them.
The pact is expected to be implemented within 24 hours of
the signing, mediators said.
The ceasefire was accompanied by an agreement on the
"question of detainees". Rebels had demanded the release of 11
of Machar's allies, detained by the government and accused of
attempting a coup.
Seyoum, the chief mediator, told reporters the deal provided
for the 11 to participate eventually 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 Kiir's forces in combat, 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 Machar's delegation, said it called for a
'withdrawal of allied forces invited by both sides'".