JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudan's president on Friday said a new peace deal with rebels will help see the country's five-week conflict resolved through dialogue, even as a rebel leader accused the country's military of breaking the cease-fire.
President Salva Kiir said the deal signed Thursday would bring an end to suffering for South Sudan's people, a half million of whom have fled their homes since violence began Dec. 15. Weeks of fighting has killed thousands.
"For the people of South Sudan, I am pleased to tell them that the conflict that erupted in December, that was uncalled for, will be resolved through peaceful dialogue," he told a news conference. But as a sign of the government's own concern about the strength of the agreement, Kiir also appealed to the rebels to accept the deal, with a message directed at armed youths known as the White Army, who are loyal to the leader of the rebellion, Riek Machar, the former vice president whom Kiir fired.
"The fact that Riek will not be in control of all these forces, I am appealing to you that you respect what has been done," Kiir said, reflecting concerns that all the rebels may not agree with the cease-fire and all do not answer to Machar.
In Ethiopia, where Thursday's deal was signed, Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, a rebel spokesman, said government forces were attacking rebel positions in oil-rich Unity state and in Jonglei state. Koang called the attacks a "clear violation" of the peace deal and said rebel forces would defend themselves against attacks.
South Sudan's military spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, said he was not aware of any new violence but said there was fighting in Jonglei on Thursday. Aguer said if new fighting has occurred "it is because rebels have attacked" government soldiers.
The U.N. Mission in South Sudan reported "sporadic fighting took place in parts of the country today (Friday)." In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized "the necessity to continue without delay a national political dialogue to reach a comprehensive peace agreement." He said that dialogue should include all political and civil society representatives as well as detainees from the rebel side, according to his spokesman, Farhan Haq.
Further agreement has stalled over rebel demands for the immediate release of 11 arrested former government officials, whom the government insists must face a judicial process. In a message meant to cool a feud with the U.N., Kiir warned the country's security apparatus to stop the "trend of violence against the United Nations."
Kiir earlier this week said the U.N. Mission in South Sudan was a "parallel government" that would "shame itself" as he accused the U.N. of siding with the rebels. Kiir said his words were misunderstood. "It does not mean South Sudan is hostile to the U.N. system," he said. "They are very helpful to the people of South Sudan".
In November last year U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the Security Council that the U.N. mission there was subjected to 67 cases of harassment, threats, physical assault, arrest and detention of U.N. staff as well as the seizure of U.N. vehicles by the army and police over five months.
Kiir said he has ordered the Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry and National Security Ministry to prevent any attacks or harassment of UN staff.
AP reporter Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia contributed to this report.