KHARTOUM, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Although Juba agreed to end fighting with defectors loyal to former a former vice president, peace remains hard to reach in South Sudan as the conflicting sides are divided on a true ceasefire.
The South Sudanese government said via Twitter: "We have agreed in principle to a ceasefire to begin immediately, but our forces are prepared to defend themselves if attacked."
In response, Riek Machar, the former vice president whose forces staged a revolt, reportedly said proper conditions for a truce have not got in place yet.
He renewed his call for the release of 11 leaders of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, who were recently arrested in connection with a failed military coup as a precondition for negotiations with the government.
The differences between the two sides pose a great challenge to regional and international mediators who are seeking to defuse the conflict in South Sudan.
"In my view, the conditions set by Riek Machar could delay the negotiation process, led by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to reach a quick solution to the crisis," Rabie Abdul Atti, a Sudanese political analyst, told Xinhua Saturday.
"The parties to the conflict should cease hostilities and resort to dialogue to resolve the crisis and avoid the country the woes of war," Abdul Atti said.
He further reiterated the importance of the IGAD's role in this respect, saying: "the IGAD's moves regarding the crisis in South Sudan represent an important stage in the negotiation process between the parties to the conflict. It is a pre-negotiation stage and has greatly contributed to containing the conflict."
The IGAD has threatened tough measures against any party crippling its efforts to resolve the crisis that claimed the lives of thousands in the country, which may pressure the two sides to make essential concessions.
In this regard, Abdul-Hamid Awad, a Sudanese political analyst and editor-in-chief of Khartoum's Alqarar daily, told Xinhua that regional and international pressures were demanding a stoppage of the violence, and that the president of South Sudan has recognized these pressures and responded with his readiness to release the detainees.
However, earlier Saturday, South Sudan army said it has not received any order to cease fire with Machar's forces.
"We have not received any order to cease fire," Philip Aguer, an army spokesperson, told Xinhua by phone, adding the army was continuing its operations against the rebels.
While recognizing the important role of the IGAD, observers fear its efforts to solve the conflict may be affected by its close ties with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
In this connection, Atif Al-Tayeb, a Sudanese political analyst, told Xinhua: "The IGAD has provided a strong support to Kiir, which is likely to push Machar to reject the IGAD initiative, doubt its neutrality or even demand another forum."
"Machar's response to the ceasefire, first announced in a communique of an IGAD summit, could be an indicator of the disinterest of the rebel leader to deal with the outcomes of the summit and its initiative," he added.
The IGAD head of states on Friday held an extraordinary summit in the Kenya capital of Nairobi, where they declared in their final communique that "they would not agree to a violent overthrow of South Sudan's democratically elected government" and urged the government and the rebels to embark on negotiations within four days.
The clashes which erupted in South Sudan about two weeks ago left thousands of people dead, over 121,600 civilians displaced and some 63,000 others took refuge at various UN compounds around the country, according to UN reports.
South Sudan army says not received cease-fire order
KHARTOUM, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan's army on Saturday said it has not received any order to end fighting with forces loyal to former South Sudan vice-president Riek Machar.
"We have not received any order to cease fire," Philip Aguer, an army spokesperson, told Xinhua by phone, adding the army was continuing its operations against the rebels. Full story
First batch of UN peacekeeping reinforcements reaches South Sudan
UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations said on Friday the first batch of peacekeeping reinforcements has arrived at Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
A 72-officer-strong Bangladeshi police unit that was originally serving the UN mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo reached Juba, said the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which has been confirmed to Xinhua by UN spokesperson's office. Full story