fHopes of an end to hostilities in South Sudan were raised on Friday when the government agreed to a ceasefire.More than 1,000 people have been killed in fighting between the government and rebels since 15 December when violent clashes began in the capital, Juba. Neighbouring countries have been anxious to bring the violence to an end and at a meeting in Kenya the South Sudan government agreed to a ceasefire.During the talks held by East Africa’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the region’s leaders called for peace but issued a strong statement of support for the South Sudan government. Uhuru Kenyatta, the Kenyan President, said, “Let it be known we in IGAD will not accept the unconstitutional overthrow of a duly and democratically elected government in South Sudan.”
Despite the ceasefire announcement there were doubts about its effectiveness. The rebels had not been invited to the summit and their leader, Riek Machar, told the BBC that conditions for a truce had not been met.He has demanded 11 political allies accused of plotting a coup be released before he is prepared to end his rebellion. So far, the South Sudan government said it was ready to release eight.
The violence has become increasingly divided along ethnic lines with the Dinka people, of whom President Salva Kiir is one, being accused of targeting the Nuers, who include Malchar.
The announcement of a ceasefire came shortly after government forces captured the town of Malakal and prepared to assault rebel-held Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity region. Most of South Sudan’s oil production has been shut down by the fighting.