South Sudan: Ceasefire Agreed to in South Sudan

Rebels and government forces in South Sudan have agreed to lay down arms following weeks of bloody conflict. A deadline of Tuesday had been set for the warring factions to agree to peace talks.

Both the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a group of east African nations, and the United States special envoy to South Sudan reported that the country's government and rebels loyal to Riek Machar, the sacked vice president, had agreed to lay down their weapons. Both groups agreed to send representatives to peace talks, to be held in Ethiopia.

On Tuesday, US envoy Donald Booth told the Associated Press that the commitment of both sides was "a first but very important step to achieving a cessation of hostilities" and the beginning of negotiations to resolve the crisis.

"The talks will focus on a monitored ceasefire followed by further dialogue aimed at solving the underlying political problems that led to the emergence of the present confrontation," a statement released by the Kenyan government, quoting an IGAD envoy, added.

IGAD member country Uganda had previously threatened to send troops to defeat Manchar's forces if the Tuesday ceasefire deadline was not met.

Violence has spread through the oil-producing country since December 15, when South Sudan President Salva Kiir accused Machar of trying to overthrow him in a coup. The political battle evolved along ethnic lines with tensions raised between Kiir's Dinka and Machar's Nuer clan.

At least 1,000 people have been killed and more than 180,000 displaced as a result of the fighting in the world's newest nation. South Sudan gained independence in 2011 following a civil war which killed more than two million people over 22 years.

(AP, dpa, Reuters)

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