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United Nations peacekeepers from Rwanda wait to escort members of the U.N. Security Council as they arrive at the airport in the capital Juba Copyright: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Lynch
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Lynch

South Sudan agrees to 4,000 extra UN troops

September 5, 2016

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 in a bid to secure Kiir's agreement to the extra troops.

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

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.

4,000 additional troops

"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 check points."

Restricted movements

Samantha Power, the US envoy to the Security Council, said it was now time to implement the agreement. "What we need to do now is move from those very important high-level commitments into working up the modalities in an operational way," Power said.

"UNMISS has an impartial mandate to protect civilians, no matter who they are, no matter where they are. The number one obstacle for [the peacekeepers] fulfilling their mandate to this point has been the severe restrictions on their movements."

Senegal's ambassador to the UN, Fode Seck, said it has been difficult getting enough troops pledged by regional countries to make up the force. The council ambassadors are due to meet with African Union officials in Ethiopia on Monday.

An estimated 16,000 children have been recruited by armed groups and the national army # picture-alliance/dpa/S.Bor
An estimated 16,000 children have been recruited by armed groups and the national armyImage: picture-alliance/dpa/S.Bor

Ongoing conflict

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 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.

jm/cmk (AFP, AP)

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