Ceasefire Holding in S. Sudan

Ceasefire Holding in S. SudanCeasefire Holding in S. Sudan

A ceasefire appears to be holding in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, after four days of heavy fighting between rival forces left hundreds dead. The city is quiet, with no reports of helicopter gunships in the sky or tanks on the streets.

President Salva Kiir and his rival, Vice-President Riek Machar, announced a ceasefire that came into force on Monday at 1500 GMT. Clashes between troops loyal to the two men threatened a recent peace deal, BBC reported.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011 but its short history has been marred by years of civil war. Kiir and Machar are under intense diplomatic pressure to end the violence.

The US said anyone impeding efforts to end the fighting would be held fully accountable. The UN called for an immediate arms embargo, as well as attack helicopters to strengthen its 13,000-strong peacekeeping force.

Two Chinese UN peacekeepers and one South Sudanese UN worker were among the hundreds of dead.

The latest clashes have traumatized Juba and shredded a peace deal between Kiir and Machar, agreed last August.

There were also doubts over how far both men were in command of their forces. Both leaders had called for calm last Friday, but the fighting carried on.

Thousands of people have had to leave their homes. Hundreds of them have sought refuge in UN premises, including Jebel and Tomping bases in Juba which were caught in crossfire on Monday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Yet again, the leaders of South Sudan have failed their people. Rarely has a country’s conduct squandered so much promise so quickly.”

Ban said an “immediate” arms embargo should be imposed on South Sudan, political and military leaders blocking the peace deal should be sanctioned and the UN mission to the country should be fortified.

He also called for military equipment “to fulfil our mandate to protect civilians” and said countries with troops in South Sudan should “stand their ground” rather than withdraw in the face of the violence.

On Monday afternoon, an army spokesman told the BBC that soldiers loyal to Kiir had been ordered back to barracks. Any who resisted the order, by loitering or looting, would be arrested, he said.