Dozens of South Sudanese held peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Juba on Wednesday to protest against the Africa Union (AU)-endorsed regional force.
The protesters marched to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) premises and handed over their petition, protesting against a proposal by the AU for the deployment of regional peace keeping troops to the war-torn country.
The protests which was organized by a civil society and backed by the government opposed the planned deployment, proposed targeted sanctions on the country’s leaders and to sent a call for the review of the mandate of UNMISS.
“We members of the civil society organizations, women leagues, student unions, youth and faith-based organizations and representatives of chiefs in South Sudan are presenting this petition during this peaceful demonstration to reject the military intervention and unjustified intended sanctions against South Sudan,” said Akouch Ajang, head of South Sudan’s Civil Society Alliance.
Ajang said the civil society organizations in South Sudan are not in favor of any intervention by foreign forces.
“We reject the increment of UN troops to South Sudan,” he said. Ajang also said the South Sudan civil society instead wants the international community to support the peace agreement which was inked in August last year.
The AU on Monday approved deployment of additional peacekeeping force to back a contingent of 12,000-strong UN blue helmets already in South Sudan after the recent violence in Juba between rival army factions which left at least 300 dead and thousands displaced.
President Salva Kiir said last week that he would not accept even a single more foreign soldier on South Sudanese soil.
Bol Makueng Yol, spokesperson of Kiir’s faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) said the move would be considered a declaration of war.
According to the AU plan, regional troops will be comprised of forces from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda.
The recent fighting put a peace deal signed in August 2015 in the balance since Vice President Riek Machar moved out of the capital Juba following fighting between his force and those loyal to President Salva kiir.
“As a South Sudan citizen, I don’t see a reason for the AU and UN to put military intervention as a solution to our problem. I regard this as an inversion and abuse of our sovereignty. They should have given us a chance to talk,” said Valentino Akol, a University student who joined the protest.
The heavy fighting in Juba last week was widely criticized by the international community which suggested an arms embargo be imposed on South Sudan as well as lobbied African nations to send more troops to reinforce UNMISS.