By Carole Landry•
August 10, 2016
United Nations (United States) (AFP) – UN Security Council diplomats on Wednesday considered limiting a proposed regional force for South Sudan to an initial four-month mission after the government in Juba rejected plans for a 4,000-strong brigade.
The new brigade would have a “clear exit strategy” and would work with the government, according to a revised draft resolution that would authorize the regional force.
The United States this week presented the council with the draft on deploying the protection force in the capital Juba to provide security and deter attacks on UN bases.
The city was rocked by several days of heavy fighting in early July between the government forces of President Salva Kiir and those loyal to ex-rebel chief Riek Machar, the latest flareup in two-and-a-half years of war.
After initially agreeing to the force during a summit of the East African bloc IGAD, the government of the world’s newest nation on Wednesday said it now had reservations.
The troops would undermine South Sudan’s sovereignty and turn the country “into a protectorate and this is a situation that we will not accept,” government spokesman Michael Makuei said.
The force should not be placed under the command of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which has come under heavy criticism for its failure to protect civilians, the government added.
The draft resolution was revised during a meeting on Wednesday to specify that the force would be “established for an initial period until 15 December 2016.”
The council could easily roll over that initial mandate, however.
The revised draft included a new provision on ensuring unrestricted access for the troops, saying the force will “promote in coordination with the transitional government of national unity the well-being of the people of South Sudan.”
The force commander will report to UNMISS in line with the initial plan, it said.
Diplomats said a vote on the draft resolution, which is still under negotiation, could take place on Friday.
- Divided council –
Security Council members Russia, China, Egypt and Angola have expressed reservations with the plan to deploy a force that would be authorized to use “all necessary means” to fulfill its mandate.
“There is a clear split in the council between those who insist on sovereignty above all else and those who want to make sure there is a robust protection force,” a council diplomat said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an arms embargo to be imposed on South Sudan along with targeted sanctions following the flare-up in violence.
The proposed resolution threatens to impose a ban on arms sales if the government blocks deployment of the regional force.
Under the measure, the council would vote on imposing an arms embargo if Ban reports “impediments” to the deployment.
Returning from a trip to South Sudan, UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien said the country’s humanitarian crisis had worsened, with more people on the run and hungry across the country.
More than two million people have been driven from their homes since the war erupted in December 2013 and over 900,00 have fled to neighboring countries, he said.
Around 70,000 South Sudanese crossed the border into Uganda as refugees during the last month.
Some 4.8 million people are in desperate need of food aid in South Sudan and a quarter of a million children are severely malnourished.
During talks with Kiir, O’Brien also urged him to take action to ensure the protection of aid workers after some 30 were killed in the past year.