‘Guns must go down’: South Sudan rivals sign security deal

In a major breakthrough, the president and his deputy sealed an agreement to unify the command of the security forces, a deal that eases political tensions in the East African country.

In what has been hailed as a major breakthrough, South Sudan’s rival leaders sealed an agreement on a key military provision in a stuttering peace deal and vowed to silence their guns.

President Salva Kiir and his rival, Vice President Riek Machar, on Sunday agreed on the creation of a unified armed forces command, one of several deadlocked issues holding up implementation of the 2018 pact to end the country’s bloody five-year civil war.

Feuding between forces loyal to Kiir and former rebel leader Machar spiralled recently, triggering fears of a return to full-blown conflict in the world’s youngest nation.

“Peace is about security and today we have (achieved) a milestone,” said Martin Abucha, who signed the agreement on behalf of Machar’s opposition SPLM/A-IO. “The guns must go down.”

Minister of presidential affairs Barnaba Marial Benjamin hailed the deal – hammered out following mediation by neighbouring Sudan – as a “necessary step… that opens a route for the stable government of the Republic of South Sudan”.

The rivals also agreed to a cessation of hostilities, a halt to “propaganda” that stokes tensions, and called for the two sides to stop trying to encourage defections from the other party, according to Machar’s spokesperson Puok Both Baluang.

Nevertheless, the people of the troubled country will be watching warily to see if the deals are implemented, since other agreements have collapsed in the past, often leading to violence.

Both Kiir and Machar were at the ceremony in the capital Juba for the signing of the accord, which stipulates a 60-40 distribution in favour of the president’s side of leadership posts in the army, police and national security forces.

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