Norway welcomes ceasefire agreement in South Sudan
OSLO, Norway, May 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- 'The agreement signed yesterday by President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar could mark a turning point in the serious conflict in South Sudan. It is now essential that the parties to the conflict comply with the agreement,' said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.
Under the agreement, the parties are to cease hostilities and lay down their weapons within 24 hours of the signing, and to keep their forces in their current positions, to enable humanitarian organisations to reach those in need of assistance. Since the start of the conflict, over 960 000 people have been internally displaced in South Sudan, and almost 300 000 people have fled the country. Tens of thousands of people are thought to have been killed in the five-month long conflict. The agreement was reached in Addis Ababa yesterday, at a meeting led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Under the agreement, a national transitional government is to be formed, which will be responsible for drawing up a new constitution, promoting national reconciliation and running the country until elections are held. The parties to the conflict, previously imprisoned members of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), representatives of other political parties and civil society organisations, and religious leaders will all be involved.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende was in South Sudan and Ethiopia this week. He called on the warring parties to lay down their weapons, and discussed the way ahead for South Sudan with actors involved in the peace process.
'When I visited South Sudan this week, I saw with my own eyes the enormous suffering of the people. The agreement gives hope of bringing an end to the hostilities in the country. However, in order for this is to happen, the parties must fully comply with the agreement, so that the five million people in acute need of humanitarian assistance can be given the help they need, all those who have been forced to flee can return to their homes, and a process of reconciliation can begin. It is essential that a national transitional government is now formed to lift the country out of the civil war-like conditions we have witnessed since the start of the conflict in December,' said Mr Brende.
Norway has provided funding for the peace process, and is cooperating closely with the US and the UK in the South Sudan Troika, which has supported the negotiations led by the regional organisation the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Mr Brende visited the region this week to show his support for the peace process and prepare for the humanitarian pledging conference for South Sudan, which is to be held in Oslo on 20 May.
'Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn deserves credit for having helped to achieve this agreement, which gives hope that there will be genuine negotiations that can once again bring peace to South Sudan. This agreement is just a first step towards finding a peaceful solution. The humanitarian needs in the country are massive. Having a ceasefire in place will make humanitarian access easier. I look forward to co-hosting the important humanitarian pledging conference that is being held in Oslo on 20 May, together with the UN,' said Mr Brende.