South Sudan leader signs peace deal amid sanctions threat

Agreement calls for establishment of coalition government within 90 days; previous ceasefires have collapsed quickly

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, left, accompanied by army chief of staff Paul Malong Awan, right, in the capital Juba, South Sudan, Thursday, July 9, 2015. (Jason Patinkin/AP)
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, left, accompanied by army chief of staff Paul Malong Awan, right, in the capital Juba, South Sudan, Thursday, July 9, 2015. (Jason Patinkin/AP)

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Wednesday signed a peace deal with rebels, more than 20 months since the start of fighting between the army and rebels led by his former deputy.

Kiir signed the agreement in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, in a ceremony witnessed by regional leaders. Kiir said he was signing the document despite having serious reservations.

Kiir’s opponent, former Deputy President Riek Machar, signed the agreement last week in Ethiopia but Kiir refused, saying he needed more time, drawing condemnation from diplomats who want a quick agreement to end the violence in the world’s newest country.

Kiir was under intense pressure to sign the accord mediated by a group of neighboring countries, with the US threatening new UN sanctions if he failed to do so.

The agreement binds Kiir into a power-sharing arrangement with Machar, a political rival whose dismissal in July 2013 sparked a political crisis that later boiled over into a violent rebellion.The fighting has often been along ethnic lines, pitting Kiir’s ethnic Dinka people against Machar’s Nuer.

FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 file photo, displaced people walk to find an unoccupied patch of ground where they can rest after arriving by river barge from Bor, some of the thousands who fled fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, in the town of Awerial, South Sudan. (Ben Curtis/AP)
FILE – In this Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 file photo, displaced people walk to find an unoccupied patch of ground where they can rest after arriving by river barge from Bor, some of the thousands who fled fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, in the town of Awerial, South Sudan. (Ben Curtis/AP)

The deal calls for the establishment of a coalition government within 90 days. Previous ceasefires have been quickly broken, however, with both sides accusing the other for truce violations.

Thousands of South Sudanese have been killed in the fighting and more than 1.6 million people have been displaced. Atrocities have occurred in which young girls have been raped and burned alive, said the UN.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

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