Southern Sudan’s government signed a cease-fire agreement with forces loyal to a renegade general, four days before the semi-autonomous region holds a referendum on whether to secede from Sudan and form an independent nation.
An accord was signed yesterday in the capital, Juba, at a ceremony attended by Southern Sudan Vice President Riek Machar, Abraham Thon, a representative of George Athor’s forces, and David Gressly, the head of the United Nations in Southern Sudan.
“This is the end of the troubles in Southern Sudan,” Thon said. “We want to tell the world that we are responsible enough to rule ourselves.”
Oil-producing Southern Sudan is scheduled to hold a plebiscite on Jan. 9 that is the centerpiece of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a 21-year civil war between Sudan’s northern and southern regions. About 2 million people died in the conflict and 4 million fled their homes.
Athor, a former chief of staff in Southern Sudan’s army, took up arms against the government after losing a state election in April. Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir offered amnesty to Athor and his forces in October. Last month, forces loyal to Athor ambushed troops from the south’s security forces, killing 20 and wounding 50.
Gressly said yesterday’s agreement is the latest indication that the south will have peace after the referendum.
“One by one, incident by incident, agreement by agreement, you have proven the skeptics wrong,” Gressly said at the ceremony.
While the accord halts fighting between Athor and the southern army, no decision was announced on what will happen to Athor or his forces. Previously, rebel groups in the south have been incorporated into the defense force.
Southern Sudan accounts for as much as 80 percent of Sudan’s 490,000 barrels of daily oil production. Sudan is sub- Saharan Africa’s third-largest producer, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
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