South Sudan conflict: Top UN official hails ceasefire deal

Truce signed by president and opposition leader calls for a cessation of hostilities within 24 hours and unhindered humanitarian access

Nairobi

South Sudan's top UN aid official has hailed a new peace deal and called for food aid to flow to counter the risk of mass hunger. A military spokesman said a cease-fire would take hold, but wary skepticism remained: This is the conflict's second peace deal.

The truce signed by President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar late on Friday in neighboring Ethiopia calls for a cessation of hostilities within 24 hours and unhindered humanitarian access.

Though it is the second peace deal of the nearly five-month conflict, the two leaders did not attend talks that forged the first cease-fire in January. This time they stood face to face, a hopeful sign one week after US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Kiir in South Sudan's capital and spoke to Machar by phone. Days later UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew in, adding to the pressure.

The warfare has thrown an extremely poor country up against the edges of severe hunger. A new analysis released Saturday by the World Food Program, Save the Children and South Sudan government found food needs deepening to “alarming” levels in areas isolated by conflict, particularly several counties in Unity state, where up to 75 per cent of people face severe hunger.

The fighting, which has often pitted Kiir's ethnic Dinka against Machar's ethnic Nuer, has killed thousands of people, often in what a new UN report this week said were gross violations of human rights “on a massive scale.” More than 1.3 million people have fled their homes, and aid officials fear that mass hunger will set in later this year.

“Big news from Addis,” Toby Lanzer, the top UN aid official in South Sudan said on Twitter on Saturday. “Calling on both parties to facilitate deliveries of emergency relief to people in need now: open roads for truck convoys & rivers for barges.”

Asked by The Associated Press if there is any evidence that the parties will open up aid access, Lanzer replied: “It's a better result than many would have expected.”

Among others voicing caution was John Prendergast, the co-founder of the Washington-based Enough Project, which does advocacy work in eastern and central Africa.

“We will know very quickly whether the parties are serious, as they are right now poised to attack each other in a number of volatile locations on the front lines of the war. It is crucial to deploy the regional civilian protection force and cease-fire monitors to ensure some measure of compliance. If this falls apart, the fighting will enter an even bloodier phase as the stakes continue to increase,” Prendergast said.

Cecilia Millan of Oxfam said it remains to be seen whether civilians will have enough faith in the deal to to return home and plant crops.

Asked if Kiir's military would hold up its side of the cease-fire deal, the South Sudan military spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, responded “definitely.” He said the new deal has a better chance of holding since Machar signed it himself. But he acknowledged violence could return if rebels, perhaps if there are some Machar can't control, continue attacks.

“There can still be a problem if they don't listen and don't stop attacking, then definitely the government forces will have to defend themselves,” Aguer said.

International pressure had been growing for at least a brief cease-fire to alleviate hunger fears. Lanzer included in his tweet the phrase “May Month of Tranquility” as a Twitter hashtag. Aid officials say if residents don't immediately return home and plant crops before seasonal rains arrive in force in June, then the country risks mass hunger and perhaps famine.

The World Food Program says 3.2 million people need food assistance. WFP says it has a funding shortfall of $261 million.

“A hunger catastrophe can still be avoided, but humanitarian agencies must be allowed to reach tens of thousands of people in need before it's too late,” said Mike Sackett of the WFP in South Sudan. “It is absolutely critical to stop fighting and other obstacles that prevent life-saving aid deliveries.”

Kiir and Machar agreed to establish a “transitional government of national unity” that will lead to new elections, said a statement by the regional bloc IGAD, which brokered the talks. The two also agreed to meet again in a month, while IGAD leads talks on the terms of the transition.

South Sudan is a largely Christian and animist nation that broke off from the Muslim-dominated Sudan after a 2011 referendum.

AP

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Qualified Teacher Required to work with SEN - Nottingham

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are cur...

Senior Infrastructure Analyst

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Infrastructure Ana...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments