South Sudan cease-fire
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – South Sudan’s top United Nations aid official yesterday hailed a new peace deal and called for food aid to flow to counter the risk of mass hunger.
A military spokesman said a cease-fire would take hold, but wary scepticism remained: This is the conflict’s second peace deal.
The truce signed by President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar late Friday in neighbouring Ethiopia calls for a cessation of hostilities within 24 hours and unhindered humanitarian access.
Though it is the second peace deal of the nearly five-month conflict, the two leaders did not attend talks that forged the first cease-fire in January. This time they stood face to face, a hopeful sign one week after United States Secretary of State John Kerry met with Kiir in South Sudan’s capital and spoke to Machar by phone. Days later U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew in, adding to the pressure.
The warfare has thrown an extremely poor country up against the edges of severe hunger. A new analysis released today by the World Food Programme, Save the Children and South Sudan government found food needs deepening to “alarming” levels in areas isolated by conflict, particularly several counties in Unity state, where up to 75 per cent of people face severe hunger.
The fighting, which has often pitted Kiir’s ethnic Dinka against Machar’s ethnic Nuer, has killed thousands of people, often in what a new U.N. report this week said were gross violations of human rights “on a massive scale”. More than 1.3 million people have fled their homes, and aid officials fear that mass hunger will set in later this year.
“Big news from Addis,” Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. aid official in South Sudan said on Twitter yesterday. “Calling on both parties to facilitate deliveries of emergency relief to people in need now: open roads for truck convoys & rivers for barges.”
Asked by The Associated Press if there is any evidence that the parties will open up aid access, Lanzer replied: “It’s a better result than many would have expected.”
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton welcomed the agreement.
South Sudan is a largely Christian and animist nation that broke off from the Muslim-dominated Sudan after a 2011 referendum.