South Sudan: At UN, Cease-fire Welcomed With Cautious Optimism

Fighting between government and opposition forces has intensified in Unity region in South Sudan

African countries on the U.N. Security Council welcomed Thursday the signing of a permanent cease-fire between South Sudan's president and his former vice president, but they expressed concern that, like previous agreements, it may not last.

President Salva Kiir and his rival and former vice president, Riek Machar, signed the framework on Tuesday in Khartoum.

South Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Akuei Bona Malwal, said the declaration includes other warring parties, and they have all pledged to work together to bring peace to the country.

"While the document signed is a framework for peace, we are hopeful and very optimistic that a final agreement will be concluded in the very near future," Malwal said. "At this juncture, I would like to announce that in the next few hours President Salva Kiir will decree a comprehensive cease-fire all over South Sudan."

Security Council members welcomed the sign of progress after more than four years of a bloody civil war that has seen thousands killed and more than 4 million displaced from their homes or made refugees. The fighting has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, with 7 million South Sudanese requiring humanitarian assistance this year.

Equatorial Guinea's deputy U.N. ambassador, Job Obiang Esono Mbengono, said the peace declaration is a step on the right path.

"However, we are cautious when comes to optimism, since it is not first time the parties have reached agreements and not respected them," Mbengono said through an interpreter. "Hence, we call on leaders to show responsibility."

Ethiopian envoy Tekeda Alemu said the coming days would be critical.

"What matters now is, of course, for the parties to honor this commitment and implement the cease-fire," Alemu said.

Cote d'Ivoire's envoy also urged the parties to honor their commitments and said his government supports deploying a joint IGAD and African Union force to enforce the cease-fire.

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