A permanent ceasefire was signed on the 22nd of December between the military forces of South Sudan, led by President Salva Kiir, and the opposition forces led by former vice-president Riek Machar. A permanent ceasefire is a much needed first step towards ending the five-year conflict which began as a duel for power between Kiir and Machar. After a failed peace deal in 2015, the conflict evolved to include several more armed opposition groups. The ceasefire was negotiated in Addis Ababa, and brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa, and includes multiple parties of the conflict. The factions also agreed to grant humanitarian access to areas most affected by conflict, providing hope that aid may be able to reach those who need it most and more information will be made available in these conflict areas.
Despite the high hopes placed on this ceasefire, which went into effect on December 24th, there have been reports of violence between South Sudanese armed forces and opposition groups in Unity state, near the town of Koch. Both sides claimed they were acting in self-defense, creating more confusion just as the ceasefire came into effect. NPR’s East Africa correspondent, Eyder Peralta reports that some on the opposition side view the violence as an attempt by the government to grab as much land as possible before peace talks begin in early 2018, which reflects the fear that the ceasefire may not represent the future that the international community was hoping for during the building of this initial agreement.