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ICRC: Cease-Fire in South Sudan Appears to Be Holding

South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar, left, and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir sign a ceasefire and power sharing agreement in Khartoum, Sudan, Aug. 5, 2018.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reports some positive signs indicate South Sudan’s recent peace agreement is holding and may lead to a sustainable end to years of conflict.

The ICRC global director of operations, Dominik Stillhart, has just returned from a week-long mission to South Sudan. He says the impact of five years of war is widespread, palpable and will not be easily overcome.

At the same time, he says there appears to be some reason for hope for improvement in this war-ravaged country. He notes a significant decrease in violence since President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar signed the cease-fire agreement on August 2. South Sudan has been plagued by civil war as a result of a power struggle between President Kiir and Machar, his former deputy.

Stillhart says it is not surprising to find that people are skeptical about the chance of this accord being implemented, given the many previous agreements, which have been broken. But, he tells VOA this time may be different because the deal is strongly supported by Sudan, Uganda and IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

"It is this alignment, which, of course is also an alignment based on their individual interest of both Sudan and Uganda that, nevertheless provides perhaps more hope this time that this agreement may be implemented. And, yes, I think on the other hand, the leaders also realize that they have to do better," he said.

Stillhart says the people of South Sudan expect their leaders to deliver on that agreement after years of being brutalized by a war that has destroyed their hopes for a viable future.

The United Nations estimates that since civil war erupted in 2013, more than 50,000 people have been killed, 2.5 million people have become refugees in neighboring countries and about 2 million internally are now displaced.

Stillhart says it is crucial that the international community does not abandon South Sudan but continues to help the government live up to the peace agreement.

He warns the human cost of continued conflict in South Sudan would be catastrophic.