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East African nations welcome signing of South Sudan peace deal

12 May 2014, 09:32

Nairobi - East African countries on Saturday welcomed the signing of the South Sudan peace deal by President Salva Kiir and former vice-president Riek Machar to end five months of bloodshed in the world's youngest nation.

President Uhuru Kenyatta who is the chairman of the East Africa Community (EAC) and rappoteur of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) said he expects the deal which was inked on Friday evening to lead to the opening up of humanitarian corridors for the delivery of assistance to those in need.

"We also expect Friday's agreement to lead to the opening up of humanitarian corridors for the delivery of assistance to those in need," Kenyatta said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

The meeting which was facilitated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn who is also the Chairperson of the IGAD Assembly was the first face–to-face meeting between the two principals since the outbreak of the conflict in South Sudan on December 15, 2013.

The agreement contains a commitment to an immediate cessation of hostilities within 24 hours of the signing and a rededication to the cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed in January in Addis Ababa.

The two leaders have also committed to freeze forces in their current locations and refrain from any provocative action or combat movement until a permanent cease-fire is agreed.

The two leaders committed to unconditionally cooperate with the full operationalization of the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM) as well as to facilitate unhindered humanitarian access to all populations affected by the conflict.

Both Kiir and Machar agreed to work together to move the country forward by establishing a transitional government of national unity through an all inclusive peace process that will include the two direct negotiators from both the government and the opposition as well as the SPLM leaders (former detainees), political parties, civil society and faith-based leaders.

"The transitional government of national unity will be tasked to oversee government functions during a transitional period; implement critical reforms as negotiated through the peace process; oversee a permanent constitutional process and guide the country to new elections," IGAD said in the statement.

The terms of the transitional government will be negotiated through the IGAD-led peace process. The two leaders will also be holding a follow up meeting in one month under the auspices of IGAD.

The agreement represents a breakthrough in the ongoing IGAD-led Mediation process and it is expected to invigorate and expedite the negotiations in Addis Ababa.

In his statement, Kenyatta congratulated the two leaders for holding face-to-face talks for the first time and signing the peace agreement.

"I do this on behalf of the Government and the people of Kenya as well as the EAC. We are very pleased by the progress so far and look forward to a complete cessation of hostilities and an IGAD summit in the near future," Kenyatta said.

Kenyatta expressed the region's disappointment at what the leaders of South Sudan were allowing their country to become, a country torn by conflict and vowed that the region would not stand by and watch anarchy and death become normal occurrences in South Sudan.

"Today's events show that the region is committed to facilitating the return of peace and stability in an important neighbor and friend," Kenyatta said.

He said the meeting in Addis Ababa and its outcome are a further step forward in a process that began on December 19, 2013.

He said the release of all 11 political detainees, including the last four by President Kiir have paved the way for the breakthrough that was realized on Friday.

"We expect the signing of Friday's agreement to lead to a quick implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement that was signed in January this year. We look forward to the next summit which we hope will further solidify today's gains," Kenyatta said.

He also welcomed the agreement by the Parties to fully cooperate with the African Union Commission of Inquiry and pledges to abide by its recommendations because it is important that those responsible for committing any atrocities -- regardless of the political divide -- take full responsibility and are held accountable for their actions.

 - Xinhua

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