9 May 2014

South Sudan Government, Rebels Agree to Cease-Fire

Photo: Voxcom/IRIN
Dr Riek Machar pictured in 2007.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar have signed a cease-fire. The bitter rivals have agreed that a transitional government offers the best way to steer South Sudan out of its bloody civil war.

In their first face-to-face meeting since South Sudan descended into violence last December, President Kiir and rebel leader Machar (pictured) agreed to a cease-fire during peace talks in Addis Ababa on Friday. The cease-fire agreement is expected to take effect within the next 24 hours.

The two men also indicated that they supported the formation of a transitional government, according to the Reuters news agency. But they did not lay out a roadmap for the formation of such a government or say who would serve in it.

Last January, the South Sudanese government and rebel forces had agreed to a cease-fire. But the deal failed to hold, with both sides accusing each other of launching attacks.

Reports of war crimes

On Thursday, the United Nations released a report accusing both government forces and the rebels of committing war crimes.

"These include extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, rape, the direct targeting of civilians, often along ethnic lines, as well as ill treatment and the destruction of property," the report found."These are crimes for which perpetrators bear individual criminal responsibility."

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said that the crimes detailed in the report showed "many of the precursors of genocide."

The conflict erupted last December, with Kiir accusing Machar of trying to stage a coup. Since then, the Dinka and Neur tribes have increasingly targeted each other based on ethnicity. Kiir is a Dinka while Machar is a Neur.

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