South Sudan’s Warring Sides Agree to Cease-Fire in New Peace Bid

(Bloomberg) -- South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar agreed on a permanent cease-fire within 72 hours and signaled they’re prepared for a second attempt at a power-sharing government to end a ruinous more than four-year civil war.

The conflict in the East African nation has claimed tens of thousands of lives, driven about 4 million people from their homes and slashed oil production to about 135,000 barrels per day from 350,000 barrels in 2011, when it seceded from Sudan. Previous cease-fire agreements made by the government and rebels were quickly violated.

Kiir and Machar still have to agree on the details of the power-sharing deal before they leave the current talks in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, according to a copy of the pact shared with reporters on Wednesday. Once they confirm that so-called “bridging proposal,” there’ll be 120 days before South Sudan’s new 36-month transitional government takes effect, the pact showed. Elections would be held after that period.

The deal, brokered under the mediation of Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir, would be the second time Kiir and Machar, his former deputy, have agreed on sharing powers. A pact signed in 2015 collapsed just weeks into its enactment the following year and ushered in a new wave of violence. Machar has since lived in exile, and his meetings with Kiir this month were their first in about two years.

Crucial Oil

Landlocked South Sudan’s oil, which Sudan exports via a pipeline and is crucial to both nations’ economies, was also mentioned in the agreement. The two countries will “immediately rehabilitate the oil fields,” according to the pact.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Derdiri Mohamed Ahmed, addressing reporters in Khartoum, said talks will continue in the city for 10 days and the next meeting will determine when Machar will be allowed to return to South Sudan’s capital, Juba. He also gave details of a security agreement between the two sides, including releasing prisoners of war and opening access for humanitarian relief.

The pact covers the government forces, troops belonging to Machar’s Sudan’s People Liberation Movement In Opposition and other rebel groups in the country with sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest crude reserves. The African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a bloc of countries in the region, will be asked to help supervise the cease-fire, Ahmed said.

Negotiation teams will keep working to resolve the outstanding issues, Machar said at the signing ceremony, while Kiir said he was committed to the agreement.

“The war should stop, according to this agreement, and I’m sure our people will be happy after these three days,” Machar said.

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