Many Episcopalians who have mission partnerships with Anglicans in South Sudan are relieved at the news that the government of South Sudan and rebels loyal to the country’s ousted former
vice president signed a cease-fire agreement on Thursday.
Under the agreement, signed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, both sides in the conflict promised to lay down their arms. But they have also said that a cessation of hostilities would be a temporary measure, short of a formal peace agreement, and that negotiations would have to continue.
While humanitarian groups welcomed the cease-fire as an opportunity to restore stability,
political analysts urged restraint, saying that a cease-fire was only the first step in bringing an end to a civil war that has killed thousands and displaced more than half a million South Sudanese.
“We have to be very cautious,” said Zacharia Diing Akol, director of training at the Sudd Institute, an independent research group in the South Sudanese capital, Juba. “Today is just going to be the first step toward stopping violence, but the long and arduous process of real negotiations are going to begin.”
In addition to ending military operations, the agreement said both two sides must “refrain from
taking any actions that could lead to military confrontations, including all movement of forces,
ammunition resupply or any other action that could be viewed as confrontational.” The agreement also calls for a monitoring and verification team to be set up.
The pact is expected to be implemented within 24 hours of the signing, mediators said.
But making the ceasefire hold could test Machar, whose forces include loyalists as well as more autonomous groups battling the centrally controlled government forces.
“The crisis that gripped South Sudan is a mere manifestation of the challenges that face the young and fledgling state,” Seyoum Mesfin, IGAD’s chief mediator, told the signing ceremony.
“I believe that the postwar challenges will be greater than the war itself. The process will be … unpredictable and delicate.”
Obama said on Thursday the ceasefire was a “critical first step” toward peace in South Sudan, but added that leaders needed to work to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict, and must quickly release political detainees.
“South Sudan’s leaders must demonstrate their sustained commitment to a peaceful resolution of the crisis,” Obama said in a statement, urging that “individuals who have committed atrocities are held to account.”