South Sudan agrees to end hostilities
JUBA, South Sudan — South Sudan's government agreed Friday at a meeting of East African leaders to end hostilities against rebels accused of trying to overthrow the young country, but the cease-fire was thrown into doubt because the head of the rebellion was not invited.
An army spokesman suggested the fighting could go on despite the announcement by politicians in a faraway capital.
At the meeting in Kenya, South Sudan agreed not to carry out a planned offensive to recapture Bentiu, the capital of oil-producing Unity state, which is controlled by troops loyal to Riek Machar, the former vice president vilified by the government as a corrupt coup plotter.
“We are not moving on Bentiu as long as the rebel forces abide by the cease-fire,” said Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan's information minister.
But no one representing Machar was at the Nairobi meeting — a move possibly meant to deny him any elevated status that could slow the search for peace. And Machar told the BBC that conditions for a truce were not yet in place.
In the field, the military reported no immediate changes in the battle for control of the world's newest country.
Said army spokesman Col. Philip Aguer: “We have not seen any sign of a cease-fire. There is no cease-fire agreed by the two sides,” an indication the planned assault on Bentiu could still take place.
Elsewhere, the country's military advanced on the rebel-held town of Malakal early Friday and had taken control of it by noon, Aguer said.
Violence erupted Dec. 15 in South Sudan's capital Juba and quickly spread across the country.