FILE - In this file photo dated Thursday, June 21, 2018, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, left, and opposition leader Riek Machar, right, shake hands during peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. South Sudan's government says President Salva Kiir and armed opposition leader Riek Machar have agreed to share power in a transitional government in the latest effort to end a five-year civil war. Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth announced the agreement to reporters in Sudan's capital, Khartoum on Wednesday, July 25.(AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, FILE)

South Sudan's warring leaders agree to share power, again

July 25, 2018 - 10:25 am

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — South Sudan's warring leaders have agreed to share power once again in a transitional government in the latest effort to end a five-year civil war, officials announced Wednesday.

South Sudan's information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, announced the agreement between President Salva Kiir and armed opposition leader Riek Machar to reporters in Sudan's capital, Khartoum.

The agreement, initialed Wednesday, will be signed on Aug. 5, Sudan's Foreign Minister Al-Dirdiri Mohamed Ahmed said. There was no immediate comment from the armed opposition.

Kiir will lead South Sudan's government during the transitional period and Machar will return as first vice president, Sudan's official SUNA news agency reported.

A similar arrangement, however, fell apart in July 2016 when fighting erupted in the capital, Juba, and Machar fled the country on foot.

The civil war broke out in December 2013 between supporters of Kiir and his then-deputy Machar. Tens of thousands of people have been killed since then, with more than 2 million fleeing the country in Africa's largest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Millions of others have been left near famine.

Multiple cease-fires, including a "permanent" one signed by Kiir and Machar weeks ago, have been violated within hours. Meanwhile, both sides have been accused of abuses. A U.N. report earlier this month described how government troops and allied forces hung people from trees, burned others alive and raped or gang-raped dozens of women and girls.

The new agreement comes as South Sudan's leaders are under growing pressure from an impatient international community to end the fighting. Under the threat of a U.N. arms embargo Kiir and Machar agreed to resume talks in June, their first face-to-face discussions in nearly two years.

Earlier this month the U.N. Security Council imposed the arms embargo anyway.

The U.S. earlier this week said it was "skeptical" that Kiir and Machar can oversee an end to the fighting.

Machar will be among five vice presidents in the new transitional government, according to the 11-page agreement. The warring sides also have agreed to share a 550-seat parliament.

Some South Sudanese who have seen past peace deals come and go reacted to the latest news with wariness.

"Working relations between Kiir and Machar is at its lowest level ever and chances of the duo causing another regrettable wave of violence are high," said Wol Deng Atak, the editor of a newspaper that was forcibly shut down by the government and who now lives in exile.

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Associated Press writer Sam Mednick in Juba, South Sudan contributed.

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