South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said yesterday he was “fully committed” to ending his country’s civil war, as the UN Security Council was to consider a US request to impose sanctions.
Speaking to reporters in the capital Juba, Kiir insisted he had ordered his forces to respect a ceasefire with troops loyal to rebel leader and former vice president Riek Machar, unless they are attacked first.
“With that signature I have fully committed myself and the government to the faithful implementation of the agreement on the resolution of the conflict,” Kiir said, referring to a regionally-brokered deal signed in August and presented as a last chance for peace before sanctions are imposed.
“In my capacity as commander-in-chief, I have already issued a ceasefire order to stop any offensives in the conflict zone, unless in self defence if they are attacked,” he added.
“I am committed to peace and the implementation of the agreement in order to overcome the challenges of humanitarian and economic crisis in the country.”
The army and rebels have repeatedly accused each other of breaking an August 29 ceasefire deal, the eighth such agreement to be signed since war broke out in December 2013.
Despite ongoing fighting, both sides say the political deal remains in place.
Under a US proposal, the Security Council could slap a global travel ban and assets freeze on South Sudan’s army chief and a rebel commander for violating the truce.
The sanctions target South Sudan army chief Paul Malong, a widely feared hardliner known for his long experience as a fighter in Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war, and rebel commander Johnson Olony, an ex-government general accused of forcibly recruiting hundreds of child soldiers, for their role in the continued fighting.
The sanctions was due to come into force at 1900 GMT (6pm local time) yesterday if none of the 15 Security Council members had raised objections.
South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, descended into civil war in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar, his former deputy, of planning a coup.
The violence has left tens of thousands dead and the poverty-stricken country split along ethnic lines.
More than two million people have fled their homes from a war marked by ethnic killings, gang rapes and the forced recruitment of child soldiers.
Some 190,000 terrified civilians are sheltering inside UN bases.