A South Sudan government official announced late Friday that cabinet has accepted the deployment of a UN-mandated regional force in Juba after months of hesitation.
“I would like therefore to inform the people on behalf of the transitional government of national unity that your cabinet has resolved unanimously to allow the deployment of regional protection force anytime from now,” said deputy Information Minister Akol Paul Kordit.
The minister’s remarks comes only a week after Japanese peacekeepers, with a broader mandate to use force, landed in the war-torn country to bolster the United Nation’s peacekeeping mission (UNIMISS).
Africa’s youngest nation has been at loggerheads with the UN over a proposal to send an additional 4,000-strong force that would be contributed from neighbors to help in easing political tensions following renewed fighting in July 2016.
A fifteen member delegation from UN security council visited Juba in September and announced reaching a consensus with president Salva Kiir and top officials to permit the deployment of neutral forces to protect civilians from the ethnic violence that has torn the nation apart since 2013.
Only a day after the resolution was announced, the country’s Information Minister Micheal Makuei told journalists in Juba that cabinet had backtracked on the agreement, noting that it was not “duty bound” to accept the troops. Makuei said peacekeepers would since be regarded as “invaders”
Army chief of staff Paul Malong also told journalists in October that the proposed 4,000 peacekeepers if sent to the East African Community member state would lack a mandate.
“We do not know what their mandate here would be,” said Gen Malong adding that “I do not see the need even though we agree on principle about the wider need for stability,” said the general, a trusted close ally of Kiir.
Since the renewed fighting between ‘government forces’ and those loyal to exiled opposition leader Riek Machar in the capital Juba in July, ethno-politicized violence has spread across the country.
Observers and international investigators say that the national army, dominated by the ethnic Dinka from where president Kiir hails have engineered attacks on the Nuer, from where Machar belongs.
Quoting cases in Southern town of Yei, Human Rights Watch in a new report said government and rebel forces have had an equal share in terrorizing, killing and abusing civilians.
Murderous acts of ethnic cleansing, Rapes, torture, arbitrary arrests among others are some of the abuses Human Rights Watch documented in Yei as committed by both sides in the current conflict.
The United States which is the principle midwife in the birth of South Sudan is calling on the UN to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan.
Although an embargo would not completely stop weapons flowing into the country or remove those already on the ground, US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said it could still make a difference, especially in preventing the acquisition of more heavy weapons, aircraft and military vehicles.