South African peacekeeping troops practice drills at the African Union base in Mallit, North Darfur state, Sudan. (Photographer: Karl Maier/Bloomberg News.)

South Sudan Rivals Sign ‘Final’ Deal in Bid to End Five-Year War

(Bloomberg) -- South Sudan’s president and main rebel leader signed a final peace deal to share power in a transitional government, the latest bid to end an almost five-year civil war that’s claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The signing in Ethiopia came after months of negotiations and preliminary pacts. It seeks to draw a line under the conflict that began in December 2013, has caused near-economic collapse and forced more than a third of the country’s estimated 12 million citizens from their homes, fueling the world’s third-largest refugee crisis after Syria and Afghanistan.

President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, his former deputy who leads the largest rebel group, signed the accord at a ceremony late Wednesday in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

The deal, which has international and regional backing, grants rebels and other opposition figures major positions in an expanded South Sudanese government, with Machar returning as vice president. It won’t be enacted until May at the earliest and is the second attempt to form a transitional administration with the rebel leader after the first collapsed weeks into its implementation in 2016.

The head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan, David Shearer, hailed the agreement while warning the “greatest challenges are yet to come.”

“We need to be persuaded by the demonstration of collective political will of the parties to implement an agreed and realistic implementation plan,” he said at Wednesday’s ceremony. “The key ingredient still lacking is trust. Those signing the agreement are former friends and foes. From my discussions with the parties, suspicion is widespread.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.