ADDIS ABABA, Aug 17 – South Sudan’s government and Opposition Monday began a process that will result in a comprehensive peace agreement, with the signing and initialing of a pact negotiated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Former South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar signed the peace agreement in the presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ethiopian Prime Minister and IGAD chairperson Hailemariam Desalegn and a host of representatives of the international community.
President Salva Kiir only initialed the agreement, an international signal for commitment, pledging to iron out outstanding issues in 15 days before appending his signature.
Desalegn and President Kenyatta were joined earlier in Addis Ababa by Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to flesh out details of the agreement.
The agreement signed by Machar and SPLM Secretary General and former detainee Pagan Amum will lead to the formation of a transition government.
There was ululation and tears of joy as Machar and Amum appended their signatures to the compromise peace agreement.
Others who witnessed the signing ceremony are the civil society and religious leaders among other south Sudanese stakeholders and the international community represented by special envoys in the IGAD-Plus peace initiative.
President Kiir expressed willingness to sign the revised agreement but requested to go back home to consult with constituents further before signing the agreement in 15 days.
President Kenyatta thanked the parties to the dispute for agreeing to give peace a chance after 20 months of turmoil in South Sudan.
“It has been a long day of pressures and tensions but a fruitful one for South Sudan and the region,” President Kenyatta said.
He pointed out that the peace process cannot be forced on any party and that was why the mediators allowed more time for the government side to consult further for an inclusive process.
President Kenyatta said that with the signing of the peace agreement, killings and maiming of innocent people should come to an immediate end.
President Kenyatta, who is IGAD Rapporteur, thanked the South Sudanese government for showing commitment to the peace process saying the interest of the citizens was to enjoy peace and safety.
“Let me also urge the international community to fully support the process to ensure sustainable peace in the region and the continent,” President Kenyatta added.
Desalegn commended Presidents Kenyatta, al-Bashir and Museveni and other regional leaders for their commitment to peace and stability in the region.
He also lauded the South Sudanese principals – President Kiir and Dr Machar – for agreeing to passage of humanitarian assistance to the displaced persons in camps.
Other speakers included AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the UK Minister for Africa Affairs Grant Shapp.