South Sudan President Salva Kiir and arch-foe Riek Machar agreed to a “permanent” ceasefire to take effect within 72 hours, raising hopes of a deal to end their country’s devastating war.
“All parties have agreed on a permanent ceasefire within 72 hours of signing the Khartoum Document,” Sudan’s Foreign Minister Al-Dierdiry Ahmed announced following talks in the Sudanese capital on Wednesday, June 27.
Kiir and Machar then signed the document in the presence of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
“This day was expected by our people in South Sudan and it has now come,” Kiir said after the signing of the agreement.
Machar said the ceasefire must finally lead to the “ending of the war.”
The declaration stipulates that the ceasefire arrangement includes disengagement, separation of forces in close proximity, withdrawal of all allied troops, opening of humanitarian corridors, and the release of prisoners of war and political detainees.
The agreement also allows members of the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – an East African regional grouping that has been pushing peace efforts – to deploy forces to supervise the ceasefire.
“The security arrangements that shall be adopted shall aim at building national army, police and other security organs of an all-inclusive character that shall be free from tribalism and ethnic affiliations,” the document says.
“Policies shall also be agreed upon for the disarmament of civilians all over the country.”
Wednesday’s declaration says that a transitional government will be formed within 120 days which will govern the country for a period of 36 months.
“During the transitional period the country shall be prepared for national elections,” the document says.
“It is agreed that the election shall be open for all political parties and shall be free and fair.”
The latest push for peace in South Sudan comes as part of a fresh bid launched by East African leaders and with the two factions facing a looming deadline to avert United Nations sanctions.
Several previous ceasefire agreements have been violated.
“We offer this agreement as a gift to South Sudanese citizens,” Bashir said. “This agreement says that peace has started to return to South Sudan.”
The Khartoum negotiations came after a round of talks brokered by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week in Addis Ababa faltered.
On arriving in Khartoum, Kiir and Machar expressed their readiness to talk peace as the dialogue opened in the presence of Bashir and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
South Sudan has fought for decades for self-determination, but after independence in 2011, an ethnic power struggle between Kiir and Machar led to all out civil war in 2013 when the president accused his then-deputy of plotting a coup.
Initially pitting Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group against Machar’s Nuer, South Sudan’s conflict has expanded, drawing in a variety of ethnic groups and grievances.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions more uprooted or pushed to the brink of starvation in a conflict characterised by mass rape and the killing of civilians. Aid workers and peacekeepers have frequently been targeted.
A peace deal was signed in 2015 but collapsed in July 2016 when fresh fighting in the capital Juba forced then first vice president Machar into exile. The opposition split, with Taban Deng taking over as first vice president, while Machar’s faction returned to battling the government in the bush.
Note: This story was updated at 1405 GMT on June 27 with details about the terms of the ceasefire.
With reporting from AFP