South Sudan\’s government said Saturday that fighting in the country\’s five-month civil war appeared to have stopped as a ceasefire with rebels came into effect following a peace deal.
"The situation is calm. We have not received any attacks since this morning," South Sudan\’s defence minister, Kuol Manyang, told AFP late Saturday.
Several independent aid agencies also confirmed that major frontlines around key towns were quiet throughout the day. Kiir and Machar had agreed to a ceasefire in January, but that deal quickly fell apart.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who visited South Sudan earlier this week, welcomed the new cease-fire agreement and called for the parties to “immediately translate these commitments into action on the ground.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the deal as a possible breakthrough.
A United Nations human rights report released this week outlined serious human rights abuses committed by both sides during the conflict, including rape, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and attacks on civilians in hospitals.
South Sudan\’s president and rebel chief signed a ceasefire deal on Friday vowing to end nearly five months of civil war, under international pressure to stem bloodshed and avert famine and genocide.
President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar met face-to-face on Friday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for the first time since mass violence broke out in December.
After a signing ceremony in the city\’s presidential palace, Kiir said: "Now we have come to our senses…dialogue is the only answer to whatever problem we had. We will continue to move in the right direction."
Machar said the agreement is an important roadmap. “I want to underline to you our commitment for seeking political settlement for this problem. As you know it has started from the SPML, the differences in the SPLM and it went into government," he said. "I am satisfied with the agenda that we have drawn with the envoys. If the two parties seriously engage in dialogue, discussion, we will resolve the problem.”
Machar also said this was a “senseless war” and that he had not attempted a coup, as alleged by Kiir.
The deal calls for an immediate truce and the formation of a transitional government ahead of the drafting of a new constitution and new elections.
The deal was also signed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who hosted the talks.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the agreement could mark a breakthrough for the future of South Sudan and urged both sides to swiftly implement it.
Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had both visited South Sudan in the past week, as part of an international push to stop the fighting there.
In a report released Thursday, the United Nations said both the South Sudanese government and the rebels may have committed crimes against humanity.
Amnesty International said its researchers saw a mass grave in the town of Bor containing as many as 530 bodies.
The conflict in the world\’s newest state has left thousands dead and more than one million homeless.
The UN has about 8,500 peacekeepers in South Sudan. However, they have struggled to contain the conflict.
South Sudan gained independence in 2011, breaking away from Sudan after decades of conflict between rebels and the Khartoum government.