Salva Kiir has ordered his SPLA army to observe a ceasefire in South Sudan. Vice President Riek Machar has reciprocated the move.
The announcements come amid renewed fighting in the capital Juba between forces loyal to the president and those supporting Machar.
Kiir says he is ready to work with his rival after the violence threatened to push the country back into full-blown civil war.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on the country after the United Nations warned against attacks on civilians and its staff.
“The Security Council members stressed that attacks against civilians and UN premises and (…) may constitute war crimes. The Security Council expressed readiness to consider enhancing UNMISS to better ensure that UNMISS and the international community can prevent and respond to violence in South Sudan,” said Japan’s Koro Bessho, who is the Council’s president for one month.
Ban also pushed for the sanctioning of leaders and commanders who are blocking the implementation of the peace process and for the UNMISS – or United Nations Mission in South Sudan – peacekeeping mission to be strengthened.
“We desperately need attack helicopters and other material to fulfill our mandate to protect civilians,” he said. “I also urge all countries contributing to UNMISS to stand their ground. Any withdrawals would send precisely the wrong signal, in South Sudan and across the world.”
The outbreak of fighting began as South Sudan marked five years of independence. Hundreds of people have since died and many more are fleeing to Kenya. Children arriving are showing signs of malnutrition, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reports. The Kakuma camp is playing host to hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese nationals.
The UNHCR says at least 100 people arrive in the camp each week.
Sarah Chappell of euronews spoke to africanews journalist Michael Dibie about the events in South Sudan and first asked what the underlying reasons are why the unity government has completely failed to provide functioning leadership for the country.
Michael Dibie, africanews: “Now, the unity government is certainly not working. It think much of this is due to the power sharing formula which did not go down with the factions. Vice president Riek Machar is reported to have reluctantly signed the deal despite some missed deadlines.
‘A new cabinet has been decided upon with 16 ministries going to the government, 10 to the main opposition, two to the group known as the Former Detainees, and two ministries allocated to other opposition parties.
‘However, sources say Kiir is yet to move his military forces 25km outside of the capital, a key condition on the formation of the national unity government.”
euronews: “So both President Kiir and Vice-President Machar have called for calm – but are they fully in control of their own forces?”
Michael Dibie, africanews: “Well it is obvious there is a huge distrust between Kiir and Mr Machar and their forces. The leaders may even be struggling to control their own troops. A number of peace deals have been signed – so far, none has led to lasting stability.”
euronews: “What is your view on the prospects of bringing a swift end to the violence and establishing lasting peace?”
Michael Dibie, africanews: “South Sudan definitely, as you know, it should be a country full of hope, five years after gaining independence. Now what we (have) instead, it (the country) is now in the grip of a massive man-made humanitarian crisis.
‘So actually, I feel that there is a need for the factions that are involved to come together to find out how they could achieve everybody to see a lasting peace to bring a solution – I mean, a peace into the nation.”