After another delay, South Sudan President Salva Kiir appears ready to finally sign the peace agreement negotiated with the help of regional leaders in Addis Ababa. It is a hopeful sign that an end may be near for the crippling factional fighting that has roiled the East African nation for 20 months.
On August 17, the deadline for formalizing the agreement hammered out in talks sponsored by the Intergovernmental Agency on Development, or IGAD, President Kiir announced that he still had reservations about some aspects of the agreement and wanted 15 more days of consultations with his government before returning to Addis Ababa to sign it.
Opposition leader Riek Machar and other parties and stakeholders had signed the agreement, however, leaving many frustrated over the continued struggle.
Untold numbers of people have been killed and more than two million have been displaced since fighting broke out in December 2013 when a political dispute between the president and Machar, his former Vice President, escalated into intercommunal conflict. Even now the fighting continues, as government troops attacked rebel positions in Imatong hours after Kiir requested more time to consider the deal.
Two days later, however, as the United Nations was considering further steps to discourage the fighting and emphasize the need to finalize the agreement –including the establishment of an international arms embargo- President Kiir called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to say that his concerns have been addressed and he plans to add his name to the agreement.
The United States has welcomed the signing of this agreement by the opposition leader and other key groups, and we urge the Government of South Sudan to follow through on its pledge to formalize the deal, which has been agreed to and supported by not only the IGAD states, but also the United Kingdom, Norway, China, the African Union and United Nations.
The United States will continue to consult with international partners on how to best take action against anyone undermining the peace process. President Obama made clear that there will be a price to pay for that intransigence.
It’s time to sign this agreement and to move forward for the South Sudanese people.