S. Sudan Agrees to 4,000 Extra UN Troops

S. Sudan Agrees to 4,000 Extra UN Troops
S. Sudan Agrees to 4,000 Extra UN Troops

After an initial refusal, South Sudan’s president has agreed to the deployment of a regional protection force to boost the UN peacekeeping mission. UN ambassadors were on hand to secure the agreement.

Ambassadors from the UN Security Council’s 15 member states met with South Sudan President Salva Kiir in the presidential palace on Sunday. The diplomats had arrived on Friday to secure Kiir’s agreement to the extra troops.

The UN had threatened an arms embargo if the peacekeepers were rejected, AP reported.

Kiir had opposed the deployment of additional troops as breaching national sovereignty. He has also suggested the UN peacekeeping mission’s neutrality has been compromised, as its camps sheltering displaced people are protecting supporters of the opposition.

“The transitional government of national unity gives its consent for the deployment of the regional force,” said Martin Elia Lomoro, South Sudan’s minister of Cabinet affairs, on Sunday, reading out a joint statement from the UN and the government. “We will design the modalities.”

South Sudan also committed to implementing a hybrid court to investigate war crimes, according to the joint statement. Both sides in the conflict have been accused of abuses.

In the wake of recent violence, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of an additional 4,000 troops from East Africa with a stronger mandate than the 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission UNMISS. The troops are to protect civilians in the South Sudanese capital, Juba.

Lomoro confirmed the government commitment “to permit free movement to UNMISS in conformity with its mandate” and “improve humanitarian access, including by providing assistance by eliminating illegal checkpoints”.

The conflict in South Sudan escalated in December 2013 after Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused his former deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer, of plotting a coup. During fighting in July, Machar, who had been persuaded to return to Juba to join a national unity government agreed under a peace deal, fled the country. He is now in Khartoum and has been replaced by Taban Deng Gai.

Earlier on Sunday, the UN delegates met with displaced people in the northern town of Wau, which has seen bitter fighting in recent months. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the fighting and 2.5 million people have fled their homes. Villages have been burned and there have been reports of violence and rape.