Kakuma, Kenya – Warring parties in South Sudan have signed a ceasefire deal that will allow humanitarian access to civilians caught in the fighting.
Thursday’s agreement, which is expected to go into force on December 24, calls for an unconditional end to the violence and unhindered access for aid workers to all areas throughout the country.
Signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the ceasefire aims to revive a 2015 peace deal that collapsed last year after heavy fighting broke out in Juba, Reuters news agency reported.
Thousands of South Sudanese have fled the civil war in their homeland, only to become internally displaced or to seek shelter in refugee camps in northern Kenya.
But despite facing difficult conditions in the camps and with little to call their own, the ceasefire announcement from Addis Ababa is small comfort to thousands of South Sudanese civilians.
Helen Gune’s husband and brother were among those killed in the South Sudan fighting. She now takes care of her brother’s eight children, as well as five children of her own.
“It’s very hard for me. I’m the only person now to take care of these children. I don’t know whether peace will come or not. I’m not hopeful any more,” Gune told Al Jazeera at the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya.
South Sudan has been mired in violence since a political rift between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar erupted into full-blown war in late 2013, shortly after the country gained its independence.
Thousands of people have been killed, and more than four million people have been displaced from their homes as a result of the fighting, according to UN figures.
Anadolu news agency quoted Moussa Faki, chairman of the African Union Commission, as saying that signing the ceasefire was “just a small first step”.
“The real test of the seriousness of your commitment will reside in your commitment to take practical action,” Faki said.