On Wednesday, South Sudan's army (SPLA) signed a permanent ceasefire agreement with insurgents loyal to General George Athor who rebelled following allegations of fraud and rigging during elections in Jonglei last April.
"We are very grateful to George Athor for his tireless efforts to make this ceasefire a success," said officer Michael Majur, speaking on behalf of the SPLA on Wednesday.
Athor, a former senior officer in southern Sudan's army, was the last major guerrilla leader fighting against the authorities who control what could become Africa's newest independent country.
“Having armed groups outside of the southern government's authority could jeopardize the unity of the south before the referendum,” Ryak Mashar, deputy prime minister of the government of the South, told Ahram Online in an interview.
Voting begins on January 9 in the referendum on South Sudanese self-determination, the culmination of a peace process that began in 2005 and ended Africa's longest civil war.
Mashar added that cease fire agreement included a pardon for all soldiers who joined Athor’s armed forces in April. They are also able return to their posts in the South Sudanese army at the same rank.
The head of the South's government, Salva Kiir, offered in October to pardon Athor, and both sides had agreed to keep out of each other's way until negotiations were concluded. Two weeks ago, the southern army accused Athor's forces of laying an ambush for them that killed 20 soldiers and wounded 50 others.
But threats to the South's security remain as Darfur rebels could also represent a problem during or after the referendum. Mashar pointed out the his government took all the necessary procedures to close the South boarder with Darfur in order to avoid any tension.