London, Asharq Al-Awsat— The two sides of the conflict currently engulfing South Sudan have agreed to sign a ceasefire imminently, in accordance with a document presented by African mediators, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), sources in South Sudan have revealed.
Yohanis Musa Pouk, a spokesman for the team representing the faction led by former Vice President Riek Machar, told Asharq Al-Awsat that IGAD mediators presented a document suggesting an immediate ceasefire during talks in Addis Ababa.
Pouk said his team accepted the document, adding that no amendments would be accepted because it was clear and specific.
He said the agreement stipulated an immediate end to the hostilities, propaganda, and the withdrawal of foreign forces, especially Ugandan forces fighting alongside South Sudan government forces, something which Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had recently admitted to.
The agreement will also allow aid organizations to enter the area and deliver humanitarian aid to the victims of the conflict, he said.
“This document which has been presented awaits one answer: yes or no. Meaning that each side accepts or rejects the document . . . [without saying that] they want amendments made,” he added.
Pouk said: “We have informed the mediators that we accepted the document, and there was a meeting on Saturday afternoon to find out what the other side’s view was.”
However, the head of the government delegation, Nhial Deng Nhial and his deputy, Information Minister Michael Makuei, were still Juba, where they were holding consultations on the document.
Pouk said that his side was waiting for the other’s decision, and if they accept the document, it could be signed any time in the coming days.
“After signing, the government must release all political prisoners immediately, and then discuss details of the disputed issues, including the issue of sharing authority and resources, and the mechanism of the country’s governance,” he added.
Makuei said he and chief negotiator Nhial held a meeting with President Salva Kiir on Saturday to discuss the details of a ceasefire agreement, adding that the government was broadly in favor of the agreement.
He said he expected the agreement to be signed in the next few hours by Nhial.
On Saturday, the South Sudan Army announced it had retaken the strategic city of Bor, 120 miles north of Juba.
Army spokesman Philip Aguer said: “The South Sudan Army defeated more than 15,000 of Riek Machar’s men and stopped their march on Juba.”
The spokesman rejected UN allegations of violations by government soldiers at UN camps in a number of towns, calling them false accusations and that the army was happy for any investigation to be conducted by the UN.
Aguer said: “We are a regular army and operate according to regulations, and the chief of staff formed a committee to investigate violations committed in Juba at the start of hostilities, and seven soldiers were arrested and are being interrogated and the legal process will take its course.”
He added that “we are prepared for any investigations to be carried out by the UN as long as they specify which of their camps were violated by our soldiers.” He denied that government soldiers had targeted any civilians on the basis of ethnicity.
Aguer also denied the use of child soldiers on the part of the government in the current conflict, but accused Riek Machar and his group of conscripting children, especially from the Nuer ethnic group, to which Machar belongs.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) has expressed concern at the increase during the conflict in violent attacks, human rights violations and killings on the basis of ethnicity. The PSC said a committee may be formed to investigate crimes committed during the conflict and refer the perpetrators to justice.
The PSC announced in a statement on Saturday that it would hold an emergency summit at presidential level on January 29 in Addis Ababa, to discuss the situation in South Sudan.