Facing intense international pressure, war-ravaged South Sudan on Sunday agreed to the deployment of a 4,000-member regional protection force approved last month by the United Nations Security Council.
Sunday’s decision by President Salva Kiir, who in August rejected more peacekeepers, came a day after the 15-member Security Council visited the capital, Juba, to press senior officials for approval of the new force.
Details of Sunday’s agreement were not immediately released, and no timetable for the new deployment was announced. The new force, designed to protect civilians in the capital, would bolster the more than 12,000 peacekeepers already in the region.
The visiting Security Council envoys on Saturday also toured a U.N. refugee camp in the capital, where tens of thousands of civilians have lived in squalor and fear during nearly three years of fighting between forces loyal to Kiir and rebels trying to drive him from power.
Afterward, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power called the Security Council visit “extremely important…because it’s our chance to see the human consequences of the failure of political leaders to bring peace back to their country.”
Fighting erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, when government forces loyal to President Kiir began fighting rebels led by the president’s former deputy, Riek Machar.
The two sides signed a peace deal in August 2015 that elevated Machar to first vice president. But the shaky accord broke apart in July, when Kiir loyalists and fighters backing Machar fought a four-day battle in Juba that killed at least 300 people and wounded hundreds more — most of them civilians.
Machar has since fled the country. But analysts say his civilian supporters continue to be targeted, along with what Ambassador Power described Saturday as “a huge surge in sexual violence against women” who leave the crowded Juba refugee camp to gather firewood or other family necessities.
Source: Voice of America