South Sudan parties to sign peace deal

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South Sudan’s government and rebels are expected to sign a peace deal later Thursday aimed at ending the month-old conflict in the world’s newest nation, mediators said.

“There is going to be a signing ceremony… by the South Sudanese parties at 5:00 pm (1400 GMT) today,” mediators from the regional bloc IGAD said in a statement.

Fighting broke out between rival army units in the capital Juba on December 15, with President Salva Kiir accusing his sacked deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup.

The conflict quickly deteriorated into all-out war between the regular army, who are being backed by Ugandan troops, and defectors and ethnic militia, with the violence also pitting Kiir’s Dinka tribe against Machar’s Nuer group.

The peace deal presented by IGAD mediators is expected to cover a ceasefire agreement and address the issue of 11 detainees close to Machar who were arrested after the fighting started.

Aid workers and analysts say the conflict has left up to 10,000 dead, while around half a million people have fled their homes.

A rebel spokesperson said he believed a breakthrough could happen soon, but could not provide details of a possible deal.

“It seems as if something could happen,” Yohanis Musa Pouk told AFP.

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Update: Peace Deal signed

South Sudan Government and the former Vice President, Reik Marchar led opposition SPLAM/SPLA, signed cease fire agreement ending the over one month hostilities between the two forces.

The agreement brings to an end the six weeks fighting that left more than 1,000 persons dead and 500,000 others displaced across the oil rich country.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Addis Ababa reports that Nhial Deng-Nhial from the Government side and Gen. Taban Deng-Gai from the opposition SPLAM signed.

The agreement came after six weeks of violence over control of oil rich regions of the country and 20 days of negotiations between the two parties.

The agreement is expected to take effect within 24 hours, while negotiations on the release of the 11 political detainees would begin by the two parties in conflict.

The IGAD mediating team was led by Amb. Seyoum Mesfin and witnessed by officials of AU, Envoys from the European Union, the USA, the UK, China and partners of IGAD.

The leader of the parties in their separate remarks assured of their commitment to adhere to all elements of the agreement and to ensure its implementation to the letter.