UN insists on 4,000-strong protection force for South Sudan and meets resistance from President Salva Kiir

Sudanese troops withdrawing from South Sudan

The government of South Sudan is set for a fresh round of diplomatic standoff with the United Nations after the latter ordered the deployment of a 4,000-strong protection force that has been resisted by Juba for the past six months, since authorisation by the Security Council last August.

After visiting Juba and meeting with President Salva Kiir, the outgoing UN Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, announced that the protection force will deploy within a few weeks.

Mr Ladsous said that the UN is sparing no effort in speeding up the deployment of the advance troops to Juba in the next few weeks and that it is going to be “an important signal that things are moving ahead.”

However, it is a reprieve for Juba that the troops are not going to come from the frontline states such as Kenya, Uganda and Sudan which President Kiir had accused of pushing for their vested economic and military interests instead of working towards establishing peace for the people of South Sudan.

Last November, the South Sudan government grudgingly accepted the deployment of the 4,000 troops after sustained international pressure and threats of targeted sanctions and an arms embargo.In January this year, the new UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said he doubted President Kiir’s willingness to co-operate on the deployment and asked the UN to pile pressure on Juba to accept the force.

South Sudan is facing a new threat of ethnic militias in the three Equatorias, a situation that has displaced more civilians. The fighting has also created an artificial famine as farms are abandoned and aid services cannot reach the needy.Peacekeeping troops initially known as Regional Protection Force came from Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The Kenyan contingent, had in December withdrawn from South Sudan following the sacking of leader Lt-Gen Johnson Kimani Ondieki, for allegedly failing — as the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan — to protect civilians after fresh fighting broke out in Juba.

It will be recalled that, it was in August 2016, following an alleged attempted coup claim by the government and a fresh round of fighting broke out in Juba that saw then vice president Riek Machar escape to the Congo, later getting treatment in Sudan and eventually getting asylum in South Africa, that the UN Security Council authorised an additional 4,000 peacekeepers.

But Juba immediately started lobbying against the deployment which they equated to creating conducive conditions for Dr Machar’s return.

The government was also against the enhanced force’s mandate to confront those who violate the ceasefire and resisted plans to deploy the force in key installations such as the airport.

According to South Sudanese deputy ambassador to Kenya Jimmy Deng, Juba is entitled to be part of the consultations and the world cannot impose foreign forces on the country without proper consultations.

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Source: The East African

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