5 January 2011 - A ceasefire framework agreement was signed today by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and representatives of the renegade SPLA general, George Athor, in Juba just four days before voting begins in the long-awaited Southern Sudan referendum.
The ceasefire agreement was reached after a protracted series of negotiations brokered by a high level team of mediators led by Episcopal Church of Sudan Archbishop Daniel Deng Bol.
Brig. Gen. Michael Majur of the SPLA and Maj. Gen. Abraham Thon Chol of the Athor-led forces signed the accord in the presence of Vice-President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) Riek Machar, GoSS cabinet members, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of the United Nations as well as other international organizations.
The framework agreement contains a series of provisions on the cessation of hostilities, the exchange of prisoners and the reintegration of Athor's soldiers into the SPLA.
A joint coordinating committee will be established to monitor compliance with the terms of the ceasefire.
Gen. Athor took up arms against the GoSS after he claimed to have been cheated out of victory in last April's gubernatorial election in Jonglei State. He was granted a formal amnesty by GoSS President Salva Kiir Mayardit last October but remained in his rural stronghold while negotiations went forward.
GoSS Vice-President Machar commended the negotiating teams for reaching the agreement as well as the mediators who brought the two parties together. "It is not usually easy to reach a ceasefire because of suspicions," he said.
The GoSS vice-president also expressed his concern about the humanitarian needs of people who were displaced by sporadic fighting in recent months between Athor's forces and the SPLA. He urged aid agencies to deliver humanitarian assistance to affected communities as soon as possible.
The parties and mediators thanked the United Nations for the transportation and logistical support it provided to the mediation process.
UNMIS Regional Coordinator David Gressly described the ceasefire agreement as one more "reflection" of the ongoing reconciliation process among Southern Sudanese that began with the signing of the 2006 Juba Declaration, which brought a number of militias and other armed groups into the SPLA.
Mr. Gressly reminded the signatories that their work in a sense was just beginning. "Signing is the first part," he said. "Implementing it is the difficult part."