South Sudan to end hostilities only if Machar accepts ceasefire

South Sudan is only willing to end hostilities against defected army units loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar if the opposition leader also accepts a ceasefire.

Several international news media have quoted IGAD conference organizers in Nairobi as claiming a ceasefire has been achieved, but senior officials in Juba say the government’s acquiescence to the truce ‘in principle’ does not mean that fighting will necessarily stop yet. 

IGAD, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, organized a summit of heads of state today. In a communiqué the regional body stated that it “welcomes the commitment by the government of Republic of South Sudan to an immediate cessation of hostilities and calls upon Dr Riek Machar and other parties to make similar commitments.”

The president’s spokesman Ateny Wek explained to Radio Tamazuj, “It is not a unilateral offer, but it is a conditional offer to be accepted by the other party. If not, we will continue the current approach by retaking all the towns.”

A spokesman of IGAD has called the cessation of hostilities a “small window of opportunity.” South Sudan’s government, for its part, has also declined requests from its African neighbors to release high-level political detainees for participation in the talks.

Ateny Wek said that investigations of the detainees for complicity in an alleged coup plot will not be halted: “We will proceed. We consider Dr. Riek Machar as a rebel leader and we will talk to him like we talk to rebel leaders.”

Photo: President Salva Kiir of South Sudan (right), President Uhuru Kenyata of Kenya (left) and Prime Minsiter Hailemarian Desalegne of Ethiopia (center) in Juba on Thursday, 26 December (Government of Kenya)