Businesses are shut in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, as people celebrate the signing of a power-sharing deal aimed at ending a brutal five-year civil war.
The deal will see rebel leader Riek Machar return to government as one of five vice-presidents. He and President Salva Kiir signed the agreement in neighbouring Sudan.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict which broke out about two years after South Sudan’s independence.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into conflict in December 2013 following a power struggle between Kiir and Machar. Previous attempts to find a solution to the conflict have failed.
“An agreement on outstanding issues has been signed and this agreement expresses the commitment of all parties to a ceasefire,” said Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dirdiri Mohamed, who helped to broker the deal.
South Sudan’s ruling party has declared an unofficial holiday to celebrate the signing of the accord, reports the BBC’s Nichola Mandil from Juba.
Its members are driving around neighbourhoods in Juba, using loudspeakers to spread the news, he adds. Most businesses in the capital are shut, and people are being urged to attend a celebratory rally Kiir is due to address.
Speaking after the signing of the accord in Sudan, Kiir said the government and rebels should “rededicate ourselves to unite our people and work for a peaceful transfer of power through the ballot boxes rather than through bullets”.
Machar urged mediators to focus on the implementation of the deal because the “devil lies always in the implementation”. South Sudan is rich in oil, but its economy has been devastated by the conflict.
The deal, which paves the way to a final peace accord aimed at ending the war in the world’s youngest country, was signed in the presence of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his counterparts from Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti, along with foreign diplomats.
Once a final peace deal is signed, the foes will have three months to form a transitional government which will then hold power for three years.
The talks come as part of a regional push aimed at achieving peace in South Sudan, which plunged into a devastating conflict just two years after its independence from Sudan.
“The agreement we have just signed today must map the end of conflict and war in our country,” Kiir said in a speech in English after signing the deal.
Machar urged the regional east African bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), which is pushing the latest peace talks, to ensure that the deal is implemented. — AFP