Peace Agreement Appears Tenuous

South Sudan’s top U.N. aid official on Saturday, May 10, had hailed a new peace deal and called for food aid to flow to counter the risk of mass hunger only hours before renewed fighting was reported.

London’s Daily Telegraph reported that Toby Lanzer, the U.N. aid official in South Sudan said on Twitter on Saturday. “Calling on both parties to facilitate deliveries of emergency relief to people in need now: open roads for truck convoys & rivers for barges.”

The truce signed by President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar late Friday in neighboring Ethiopia had called for a cessation of hostilities within 24 hours as well as unhindered humanitarian access.

This agreement is the second peace deal of the nearly five-month conflict. However neither Kiir nor Machar attended the January talks that forged the first cease-fire. While that cease fire was quickly ignored, this time the leaders stood face to face, a hopeful sign one week after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Kiir in South Sudan’s capital and spoke to Machar by phone. Days later U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew in, adding to the pressure.

A military spokesman said a cease-fire would take hold, according to ABC News, but wary skepticism appeared to be justified by Sunday’s events as independent observers reported renewed fighting with both sides accusing the other of breaking the ceasefire agreed hours earlier.

The rebel followers of Machar and the army of Kiir accused one another of launching attacks against one another’s positions in two oil-rich northern state, including near the key hub of Bientiu.

Kiir and Machar have faulted the other for insincerity in signing the peace accord which would begin to allow measures to ward off a forecast humanitarian disaster.

A new analysis released Saturday by the World Food Program, Save the Children and South Sudan government found food needs deepening to “alarming” levels in areas isolated by conflict, particularly several counties in Unity state, where up to 75 percent of people face severe hunger.

The fighting that broke out in December in the world’s youngest nation has claimed thousands — and perhaps tens of thousands — of lives, with more than 1.2 million people forced to leave their homes according to UN estimates

The conflict which started as a personal rivalry between Kiir and Machar, has seen the army and communities divide along ethnic lines, pitting members of Kiir’sDinka tribe against Machar’s Nuer.

John Prendergast, the co-founder of the Washington-based Enough Project, which does advocacy work in eastern and central Africa, said, “We will know very quickly whether the parties are serious, as they are right now poised to attack each other in a number of volatile locations on the front lines of the war. It is crucial to deploy the regional civilian protection force and cease-fire monitors to ensure some measure of compliance,” he added. “If this falls apart, the fighting will enter an even bloodier phase as the stakes continue to increase.”