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South Sudan rebel leader agrees peace deal with government

Machar and Kiir havel agreed a final deal [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 August, 2018

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South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar has agreed a final peace deal with the government, with hopes the country's bloody civil war has come to an end.


South Sudan's Riek Machar has agreed to a final peace deal with the government on Tuesday, a Sudanese mediator has said, hours after it was reported the rebel leader has refused to sign the truce.

Machar and President Salva Kiir have held talks in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to hammer out a peace deal to end a civil war that has left tens of thousands dead that broke out in 2013.

Differences

Although a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing deal - that will see Machar return as first vice president - have been agreed, a final resolution has not been signed.

Earlier on Tuesday it was reported that Machar refused to sign the deal, sparking fears that war could break out again.

Hours later the Sudanese mediators announced that he had agreed to sign it.

"After intense negotiations by Sudanese mediators, Riek Machar agreed to sign the document on Thursday, August 30," Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dierdiry Ahmed told reporters.

He admitted that Machar had said he was not happy with the deal, saying their reservations had not been acknowledged in the final text.

The rebel groups had differences over the functioning of a proposed transitional government, how many states the country should be divided into and on the writing of a new constitution.

"For the first time, the opposition told us that it will not sign," Ahmed said, showing the draft text to reporters and diplomats who had gathered for what was expected to be a preliminary signing ceremony in Khartoum.

He said the text was the final document drafted after consulting all South Sudanese parties.

"South Sudan will not have peace unless these groups sign," Ahmed said.

Reservations

To the surprise of the rebel delegation, the mediators drafted the final deal despite several outstanding issues that had to be resolved.

"This is an unfortunate development that will not reflect well on the impartiality of the mediators and will throw doubt into the whole process," the rebels said in a joint statement.

"We therefore urge the mediators to allow the parties to resolve these critical matters of contention." 

The Sudanese minister had said the opposition's refusal to sign meant that the deal was finished.

"This was the last round of negotiation," Ahmed said, adding that the mediators would submit the text to IGAD - a regional East Africa bloc - although it was unclear when its leaders would meet to discuss it

International backers of the peace process had raised doubts about whether the deal would last long, given that the animosity between the two sides has been ongoing since the 1990s when Machar first broke ranks with Kiir at the height of the war for independence from Khartoum.

"Considerable challenges lie ahead, and we are concerned that the arrangements agreed to date are not realistic or sustainable," the US, the UK and Norway said in a joint statement on 10 August. 

"Given their past leadership failures, South Sudanese leaders will need to behave differently and demonstrate commitment to peace and good governance," they said.

South Sudan finally won its independence from Sudan in 2011, but a little over two years later a fresh war erupted pitting Kiir against Machar, his former deputy.

The conflict has seen widespread rape and murder of civilians, often along ethnic lines, and uprooted roughly a third of the population.

 

 

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