South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir declares immediate ceasefire : State TV

July 11, 2016 5:53 pm

President Salva Kiir delivers a speech to journalists in Juba on July 8, 2016. (AFP photo)

South ’s President Salva
Kiir has ordered a unilateral ceasefire after days of fierce fighting
between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels backing former
vice president, Riek Machar, claimed hundreds of lives in the capital
Juba.

Information Minister Michael Makuei at 6:00pm local
time on Monday announced on state broadcaster SSBC that President Kiir
had issued directives for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
The
president has called for the implementation of a peace deal signed
between the two sides in August last year, the minister added.
“The
president has reiterated his commitment to the continued implementation
of the [peace] agreement in letter and spirit, and thus issues an order
of cessation of hostilities with immediate effect,” the minister said.
However media reports indicate that heavy gunfire was heard in Juba after the order.
This
comes as Juba has been mired in fresh fighting since Thursday when
troops loyal to Kiir and Machar clashed, raising fears of a return to a
full-blown conflict after a two-year lull.
Tanks, helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and mortars have been used in the latest bout of violence.
Following
a pause on Saturday, battles began in earnest on Sunday morning,
continuing throughout the day in several parts of the volatile city
before subsiding overnight and resuming Monday.
The United Nations
Security Council (UNSC) has voiced alarm over the renewed fighting and
surge in violence, which has left at least 270 people dead since Friday
and risks plunging the country into a new civil war. The council has
also urged both sides to halt the violence and called for the full
implementation of the 2015 peace agreement.
Machar orders his forces to cease fire
In
a related development, South Sudan’s vice president, and a former rebel
chief, called on troops loyal to him to cease fighting after three days
of clashes in the capital Juba with forces supporting President Salva
Kiir, AFP reported.
“I inform all troops who have been fighting
and have been defending themselves that they should observe the
ceasefire and stay in position,” Machar said on Eye Radio Juba, a short
while after Kiir ordered an immediate unilateral ceasefire.
Machar said the ceasefire started at 8:00pm (1700 GMT) on Monday.

Plumes
of smoke rise near the Jebel district in South Sudan’s capital Juba
which has seen some of the heaviest fighting, on July 11, 2016. (AFP
photo)UN chief calls for arms embargo on South Sudan
UN
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Monday for an immediate arms
embargo against South Sudan in response to the heavy fighting. The UN
chief also appealed to the UNSC for targeted sanctions against rival
parties involved in the fierce clashes.
Ban also suggested that
the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) should also be
strengthened with attack helicopters. The UN has a 13,500-strong force
in South Sudan.
“We desperately need attack helicopters and other
material to fulfill our mandate to protect civilians,” Ban said,
adding, “I also urge all countries contributing to UNMISS to stand their
ground. Any withdrawals would send precisely the wrong signal, in South
Sudan and across the world.”
The appeal comes after at least two UN peacekeepers from China were killed at a UN base in Juba on Sunday night.
Meanwhile,
Koro Bessho, the Japanese ambassador and current president of the UNSC,
warned that attacks against civilians may constitute war crimes. “The
Security Council members stressed that attacks against civilians and UN
premises … may constitute war crimes. The Security Council expressed
readiness to consider enhancing UNMISS to better ensure that UNMISS and
the international community can prevent and respond to violence in South
Sudan.”
A bloody civil war in South Sudan, the youngest country
in , began in December 2013 when Kiir accused his former deputy
Machar of plotting a coup against him.

A
South Sudanese young girl waits to be called for food distribution near
Wau on July 3, 2016 after fighting in the area displaced thousands of
civilians. (AFP photo)The two sides then got involved in a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the impoverished country along ethnic lines.
Thousands
of people have been killed and more than three million forced to flee
their homes in the war. Nearly five million people are in need of food
to survive a famine in South Sudan.
The two sides eventually
signed an agreement in August last year to bring the conflict to an end.
As part of the deal, Machar returned to Juba in April to take up the
post of vice president in a national unity government.
Despite
the August 2015 peace deal, battles persist across the country. There
are numerous militia forces that do not abide by peace agreements and
are driven by local agendas.

First
Vice President of South Sudan and former rebel leader Riek Machar (L)
shakes hands with South Sudan President Salva Kiir (C) after the
formation of the new cabinet of the Transitional Government in Juba on
April 29, 2016. (AFP photo)In January, UN rights monitors offered details about a long list of horrific abuses in the destructive war.
A
joint report by the UN peacekeeping mission, UNMISS, and the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) cited “gross violations” of human
rights, including “gang-rape, sexual slavery and forced abortion,” by
the warring sides.

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