According to the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), spearheaded by leaders of seven East African countries, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir expressed his committment to cease fire in the recently war-ravaged country. The agreement comes after IGAD convened in Nairobi and affirmed its support of South Sudan’s current president. “Let it be known that we in IGAD will not accept the unconstitutional overthrow of a duly and democratically elected government in South Sudan,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said.
Clashes began on December 15th, after supporters of former Vice President Riek Machar launched a failed coup attempt in Juba, the young nation’s capital. In a swift response, President Salva Kiir, backed by the South Sudanese military, retaliated. Spreading from Juba to ten of South Sudan’s twelve states, incessant fighting between soldiers loyal to Kiir and rebels allied with Machar subsequently affected hundreds of thousands of civilians.
The cause of the fighting is generally attributed to ongoing tension between Kiir and Machar. In July, the former vice president was dismissed from his post, along with the rest of President Salva Kiir’s cabinet. Machar was set to challenge Kiir in a 2015 presidential election, making clear his discord with the current president. However, heightening those political differences are ethnic clashes between the two men. Kiir is associated with the Dinka, the nation’s largest ethnic group, while Machar belongs to another primary, albeit smaller, group, the Nuer.
Since the attempted coup, violence escalated rapidly and left 1,000 people dead. Another 120,000 people are currently displaced, and 63,000 have sought refuge in U.N. compounds. Last week, Human Rights Watch reported that much of the killing has occurred along ethnic lines – as soldiers in the South Sudanese army murdered a number of Nuer civilians, and Nuer rebels targeted ethnic Dinka.
Machar has remained silent on the ceasefire, but IGAD hopes to mediate talks between the two factions on December 31.