South Sudan Ceasefire Mainly “Holding” Says Mediator

South Sudan’s cease-fire is largely holding while there have been clashes between government and rebel forces since the accord was signed a week ago, said the chief East African mediator, Seyoum Mesfin.

The first team of cease-fire monitors will arrive in the world’s newest nation on Feb. 1, Seyoum told reporters today in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. “By and large we see there is much restraint and encouragement,” he said.

The violence erupted last month when President Salva Kiir accused his former vice president, Riek Machar, of a coup attempt. Thousands of people have died, and at least 820,000 have fled their homes in a conflict that has pitted members of Kiir’s ethnic Dinka community against Machar’s Nuer group.

Talks on a political settlement will resume in Addis Ababa on Feb. 7, Seyoum said. South Sudan’s donors and neighbors are pressuring both sides to settle their differences through negotiations, European Union Special Representative for the Horn of Africa Alexander Rondos said in an interview.

“Talks will resume because neighbors and the international community are simply not willing to sit there and fork out huge amounts of money for people who seem to think all they need is a minor slap on the wrist for having misbehaved mildly,” he said.

Kiir’s government yesterday released seven of 11 prominent politicians from detention and allowed them to travel to neighboring Kenya. The rebels have said they won’t participate in the talks unless all those arrested on suspicion of plotting a coup are present.

Detainees Release

Seyoum urged the authorities to free the remaining four detainees, who include Pagan Amum, former secretary-general of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns made the same request earlier in Addis Ababa, where African leaders opened a two-day summit today.

The U.S., EU, U.K., China and the UN are prepared to provide funds, logistical support and civilian and military personnel to help police the cease-fire, Rondos said.

Companies including China National Petroleum Corp. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. have evacuated employees from South Sudan because of the violence.

South Sudan, which gained independence in July 2011, has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil reserves, according to data from BP Plc.

The country is currently pumping 175,000 barrels of oil a day from two blocks in Upper Nile, Petroleum Ministry Undersecretary Machar Achiek said Jan. 28. Crude wells in Unity aren’t producing since the conflict, he said.

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