In Brief

South Sudan signs peace deal with rebels - but will it last?

President Salva Kiir had come under pressure to sign agreement aimed at ending months of civil war

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has signed a peace deal with rebels in a bid to end nearly two years of civil war. 

Speaking at the signing ceremony in the capital Juba, the leader said he had "reservations" about how the negotiations had been conducted and some of the clauses in the deal, the BBC reports. 

His government had come under pressure from both the UN Security Council and the African Union to put an end to the conflict which has left thousands dead and forced more than a million to flee.

Fighting began in 2013, after President Kiir dismissed several high-ranking government officials, including vice president Riek Machar, after they threatened to challenge him in the next election.

Clashes soon erupted between government forces and troops loyal to Machar after he was accused of launching a coup. What began as a political power struggle soon divided along ethnic lines.

The UN's humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien warned conditions in Africa's newest state were deteriorating with widespread reports of atrocities against civilians being committed by both sides.

"The scope and level of cruelty that has characterised the attacks against civilians suggests a depth of antipathy that goes beyond political differences," he said.

The deal, which has already been signed by the rebels, is expected to bring an immediate end to fighting, with Machar reinstated as vice president.

A transitional government would be set up to govern until elections can be held, and a Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing would be established to investigate human rights abuses.

But observers are sceptical that peace will last, as at least seven ceasefires have been signed and broken since the conflict began 20 months ago.

Al Jazeera's Anna Cavell reports that some of the top commanders have recently split from rebel leader Machar."They say the peace deal means nothing to them, so even if the peace deal is signed, it does not mean that it would end the fighting," she says. 

The rebel group has long been an "uneasy coalition" of civilian militias and military units that defected from the national army, says the BBC's James Copnall.

"There had always been concern about whether Mr Machar could bring all his movement with him," he says. "Now we are about to find out."

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