South Sudan’s Kiir to release political prisoners, declares ceasefire


South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on Monday declared a unilateral ceasefire and promised to release political prisoners, his latest move in the country’s search for peace.

“I directed the prosecutor general to immediately review the cases of those who have committed crime against the state, commonly known as political prisoners, and ensure the necessary steps taken are taken to lead their release,” Kiir said in a speech in the capital, Juba.

“I am also declaring unilateral ceasefire effective from today.”

There was however no mention of a deal with the rebels, or any response from them regarding the release of the prisoners.

South Sudan has been marred by war since December 2013, following accusations by President Kiir that his then-deputy Riek Machar was plotting a coup against his government. Machar denied the accusations but then went on to mobilize a rebel force to fight the government.

A peace deal signed in 2015 has continually been violated by both factions.

Hundreds of thousands have been killed, with more than 3.5 million displaced from their homes. 1.5 million of those have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.

Analysts view the ceasefire as a sign that Kiir is willing to negotiate with the rebel groups in search of peace.

Machar, leader of the largest rebel group, is in South Africa where he went to seek medical treatment but has not been able to find a way back to his country.

The United Nations earlier this year ranked South Sudan as Africa’s biggest refugee crisis, and third worldwide after Syria and Afghanistan.