S. Sudan rivals vow to end war under sanctions threat
08 November 2014, 17:20
Addis Ababa - East African nations have told South Sudan's government and rebels to immediately halt their nearly 11-month-old civil war or else face sanctions and even a regional intervention.
The warning was issued in the early hours of Saturday by the regional bloc IGAD after the latest direct talks between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar failed to result in a comprehensive peace deal.
IGAD said both sides had pledged to an "unconditional, complete and immediate end to all hostilities" after two days of negotiations in Addis Ababa, and has given the pair just 15 days to finalise a transitional power-sharing accord.
Kiir and Machar signed a ceasefire at the start of the year and several subsequent deals to renew it, but the truces have been short lived. IGAD said yet another violation would have severe consequences.
"Any violation of the cessation of the hostilities by any party will invite... collective action by the IGAD region," a statement said, listing asset freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo as possible sanctions.
"The IGAD region shall, without further reference to the warring parties, take the necessary measures to directly intervene in South Sudan to protect life and restore peace," the statement added.
War broke out in December last year, when Kiir accused his sacked deputy Machar of trying to stage a coup, with the violence broadening into an ethnic conflict and now including more than 20 different armed groups.
The UN Security Council also warned during the week of possible sanctions over the fighting.
The cival war has left tens of thousands dead, forced almost two million from their homesand, pushed the country to the brink of famine has been marked by widespread atrocities by both sides.
Regional leaders have grown increasingly impatient with the warring sides, their slow-moving talks and repeated ceasefire violations, and prior to the latest meeting bluntly told Kiir and Machar to "come to their senses".
Recent weeks have seen an upsurge in fighting coinciding with the end of the rainy season, and there have been heavy clashes in several areas -- in particular around the northern oil hub of Bentiu.
'Only in self-defence'
Speaking after the talks, President Kiir vowed that his troops would only be acting in self-defence -- although this has been used an excuse by both sides for previous truce violations.
"From this hour, they won't be found outside their barracks to make an attack from any direction. They should fight only in self defense," he said.
"This is what I want to tell my people, and I want to recommit myself again in front of the IGAD leaders, that whatever we are saying here is something that we are going to implement without any failure," Kiir added.
Machar also said he had ordered all rebel fighters "to cease the hostilities and remain in their locations and only act in self defence".
"We do not want any soldier or any civilian to die again after this progress in Addis Ababa," he said, adding he was "confident that we will reach a final agreement" within the 15 day deadline.
Delegates said a transitional unity government would leave Kiir as president and place Machar as prime minister -- but how much power the prime minister should have remained a sticking point.
IGAD, an East Africa and Horn of Africa trade bloc, groups Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. The bloc has been trying to broker peace in South Sudan since January.
South Sudan gained independence from Khartoum in 2011 and is the world's youngest nation.