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The "permanent" truce begins in the civil war in South Sudan



JOHANNESBURG – A truce began at midnight in South Sudan when a weary nation wondered if this latest attempt to end a five-year civil war would last.

President Salva Kiir and rival Riek Machar agreed on the "permanent" ceasefire on Wednesday in Sudan following their first personal talks in nearly two years. They had experienced a possible arms embargo and United Nations sanctions if the fighting did not stop and no political agreement was reached on Saturday.

Several peace attempts failed and the last truce in December was violated within hours, fueling the growing frustration of the international community. Both Kiir and Machar ordered their supporters this week to watch the final deal on Saturday.

The civil war between supporters of Kiir and his deputy Machar at the end of 201

3, just two years after South Sudan gained independence from Sudan, has killed tens of thousands and created Africa's largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Both sides were accused of ethnic violence and atrocities such as gang rapes.

Millions are near famine. The new peace agreement provides for the unimpeded delivery of relief supplies to humanitarian aid workers in one of the world's most dangerous countries, as well as the withdrawal of troops and the release of prisoners of war.

Careful observers inside and outside the country, including the belligerent sides, at best approached the recent truce with cautious optimism.

A joint statement by the United States, Britain and Norway on Friday warned that the impact of the battle on the ground must be seen: "It must result in improved security for communities and an end to the terrible abuses that civilians […]

And despite the ceasefire, the statement said: "We will continue to seek action in the UN Security Council to restore peace and security to the region, including the consequences for spoilers in the peace process."

The recent talks between South Sudan's rivals still need to agree on a power sharing deal such as the government Last week, Machar rejected the re-election of Kiir

A 2015 peace deal brought Machar back as vice president, but the deal collapsed in July 2016 when in the capital Juba new fights ausbr As Macha and Macha walked across the country, the bush fled to the Congo.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to Washington.

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