South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Wednesday signed a peace deal with rebels, more than 20 months after the start of fighting between the army and rebels led by his former deputy.
Kiir signed the agreement in Juba, South Sudan\’s capital, in a ceremony witnessed by regional leaders. Kiir said he was signing the document despite having serious reservations. He signed the same agreement endorsed last week in Ethiopia by rebel leader Riek Machar, said Kiir\’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny.
Machar, the former deputy president, signed the agreement last week in Ethiopia but Kiir refused, saying he needed more time, drawing condemnation from diplomats who want a quick agreement to end the violence in the world\’s newest country.
Kiir was under intense pressure to sign the accord mediated by a group of neighboring countries, with the U.S. threatening new U.N. sanctions if he failed to do so.
Signing the agreement Wednesday, Kiir said he felt the peace deal had been imposed on him and said the agreement is flawed. Kiir said some aspects of the deal "are not in the interest of just and lasting peace … We had only one of the two options, option of an imposed peace or the option of a continued war … We are here talking about peace."
He accused rebels of attacking positions held by government troops in two areas in the volatile state of Unity on Wednesday.
The agreement binds Kiir into a power-sharing arrangement with Machar, a political rival whose dismissal in July 2013 sparked a political crisis that later boiled over into a violent rebellion. The fighting has often been along ethnic lines, pitting Kiir\’s ethnic Dinka people against Machar\’s Nuer.
The deal calls for the establishment of a coalition government within 90 days. Previous cease-fires have been quickly broken, however, with both sides accusing the other for truce violations.
Thousands of South Sudanese have been killed in the fighting and more than 1.6 million people have been displaced. Atrocities have occurred in which young girls have been raped and burned alive, said the U.N.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was in Juba to witness the signing and welcomed the agreement.
"You are fighting for the sovereignty of the people of South Sudan to make their own decisions," said Museveni. "That cannot be realized in war. When you have war it is not the people who make decisions. It is the gunmen who make decisions and these are not necessarily mandated by the people. Therefore you need to get out of this trap, remove the guns and give back power to the people so that the people can vote for what they like."