South Sudan's President declares unilateral ceasefire

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir declared a unilateral ceasefire on Monday as he launched a national dialogue, a controversial bid to end a civil war that excludes his rival Riek Machar.
It is not the first time Kiir has vowed the army will lay down arms in the three-year conflict, and he warned that his troops would defend themselves if attacked.
“I am also once again declaring a unilateral ceasefire effective from today, so that we can create an environment for an inclusive dialogue and so that we can transport humanitarian aid to famine struck areas,” Kiir said at the opening of the national dialogue.
However he told army commanders “you have the right to defend yourself”.
A 94-member steering committee was sworn in “to conduct consultations as widely as possible to give the people of South Sudan (a chance) to air out their views and aspirations to restore peace in their country.”
The process – first announced in December – has been hampered by financial constraints as well as disagreements over the set-up of the steering committee.
Kiir himself will be overseeing the dialogue, a fact which has drawn criticism from opposition groups and activists, and has refused to have his foe Machar take part.
South Sudan has been at war since December 2013 when Kiir fell out with Machar, accusing him of plotting a coup.

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