10 May 2014

South Sudan: UN Calls for Immediate Aid Relief

The United Nations' top official in South Sudan has called for the immediate influx of emergency aid following the signing of a cease-fire agreement to end months of ethnic fighting.

On his Twitter account Saturday, Toby Lanzer said roads need to be opened for truck convoys and rivers need to be accessible for barges to deliver "emergency relief for people in need now."

President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar met face-to face Friday for the first time since violence erupted five months ago, praying together in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia before signing the agreement.

The two men pledged to cease all hostilities and open up humanitarian corridors. They also agreed that a transitional government offers the best chance to take the country forward. There were no immediate details on who would be part of an interim administration.

Kiir said the army will implement the agreement without fail. Machar said he was satisfied with the deal and that if the two sides seriously engage in dialogue, they can resolve the problem.

Negotiations have dragged on for several months with little progress, while violence has killed thousands and displaced more than 1.2 million people.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the agreement could mark a breakthrough for the future of South Sudan and urged both sides to swiftly implement it.

Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had both visited South Sudan in the past week, as part of an international push to stop the fighting there.

In a report released Thursday, the UN said both the South Sudanese government and the rebels may have committed crimes against humanity.

Amnesty International said its researchers saw a mass grave in the town of Bor containing as many as 530 bodies.

The unrest was sparked by a power dispute between Kiir and Machar, his former deputy, who was fired in July.

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