President of South Sudan Refuses to Sign Peace Deal

Leader of South Sudan Refuses to Sign Peace Deal

Image: The Telegraph 2013, EPA

United Nations — Bucking the threat of international sanctions, the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, refused to sign a peace deal to halt the nation’s civil war on Monday, the deadline for a final accord mediated by African leaders.

“If it is signed today and then tomorrow we go back to war, then what have we achieved?” Mr. Kiir was quoted as saying in a tweet posted by the South Sudanese government’s account.

South Sudan, which became the world’s newest nation four years ago to great fanfare, fell into a devastating civil war about 18 months ago. Thousands have died, more than 1.5 million people have fled their homes and nearly half the population is at risk of going hungry.

During his trip to Africa last month, President Obama convened a meeting of the region’s leaders to help press for an end to the fighting. He and the other leaders agreed to push the warring factions to sign a peace agreement by Monday and threatened both sides with sanctions or other measures if they did not comply.

But the South Sudanese government has said it needs 15 more days to decide whether to sign the agreement, which seeks to end the fighting that broke out in December 2013 and has torn apart the nation since then.

Two other factions signed the peace agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopa, on Monday, among them Mr. Kiir’s chief rival, Riek Machar. Mr. Kiir was photographed shaking Mr. Machar’s hand.

“In the next 15 days, the government will come back to Addis Ababa to finalize the peace agreement,” said Seyoum Mesfin, the mediator for the regional African organization known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, Reuters reported. IGAD had set the Monday deadline for a final accord. Ceasefire deals have fallen apart in the past.

The United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions in July on six generals from rival factions. Their assets are frozen, and they face a travel ban.

South Sudan, rich in oil, also presents a crucial test of cooperation in the region between China and the United States. China’s state-owned oil company has a large stake in South Sudan’s oil fields. China has deployed an infantry battalion to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in that country — the first time it has sent a full battalion to a United Nations operation.

Copyright: New York Times 2015

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