South Sudan’s government and rebels signed a Cessation of Hostilities agreement on January 23 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, according to multiple news sources.
The cease fire is expected to stop the fighting of forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels who back former vice-president Riek Machar. Violence between the two factions erupted on December 16 at the army base in Juba and rocked the country for more than a month resulting in thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than a half million civilians according to Reuters. The agreement also provides for the withdrawal of Ugandan military forces from conflict zones, the cessation of violence against civilian populations and the providing of safe corridors for humanitarian assistance to civilians.
The cease fire resulted from the efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight country East Africa trading bloc. Seyoum Mesfin, IGAD’s chief mediator, told the negotiators present at the signing ceremony that “I believe that the post war challenges will be greater than the war itself,” according to Reuters. “The process will be… unpredictable and delicate,” said Mesfin.
Mesfin’s comments reflect the concern of many observers who note that the surface tensions between the Dinka and Nuer groups mask an underlying struggle for political and economic advantage in the new nation. South Sudan’s economy is based upon abundant oil reserves that are only just being utilized for the country’s well being.
In addition to Cessation of Hostilities, an Agreement on the Status of Detainees was likewise signed which secured the release of eleven political figures held by the government of South Sudan. The parties also committed to a national reconciliation process in which political (including current detainees) and civic organizations, traditional and religious leaders participate.
South Sudan won its independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of conflict between the northern and southern Sudanese.