By Staff Reporter
Juba, South Sudan
A ceasefire agreement has come into effect in South Sudan, despite allegations of fresh attacks.
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said there had been “sporadic fighting” in certain areas, some of it after the ceasefire had begun.
The government and rebels signed the ceasefire agreement on Thursday after talks in Ethiopia.
More than 500,000 people have been forced from their homes during the month-long conflict.
Correspondents say that effective monitoring of the truce will be vital, as tension between the two sides is very high.
The talks have now been adjourned and are due to continue on 7 February.
SkirmishesThe ceasefire came into effect at about 17:30 GMT on Friday.
Military spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer said he was not aware of any new violence, and that clashes had taken place before the ceasefire was signed.
Sudan‘s arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
His spokesman, Farhan Haq, said the dialogue should include all political and civil society representatives as well as detainees from the rebel side.
Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan’s budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state – at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
In the past week, government forces have recaptured the two main cities that were under rebel control.
The agreement is thought to address the issue of 11 detainees whom the rebels wanted freed, and whose fate had previously left the talks deadlocked.
The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
The detainees – allies of rebel leader Riek Machar and prominent political figures from a faction of the governing SPLM party – were taken into custody when President Salva Kiir first made the allegations of an attempted coup – which Mr Machar denies.
After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world’s newest country – and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water – up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Although both men have supporters from across South Sudan’s ethnic divides, the fighting has often become communal with rebels targeting members of Mr Kiir Dinka ethnic group and soldiers attacking Nuers.
Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan – however this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight – this compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).
South Sudan is the world’s newest state after gaining independence in 2011. It remains one of the least developed countries.