UN strengthens peacekeeping mission to South Sudan by 4,000 troops

The UN Security Council on Friday authorized the deployment of a 4,000-member regional protection force to strengthen the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan and threatened to impose an arms embargo if the government impedes the work of UN troops.

The resolution extending the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force to war-torn South Sudan, known as UNMISS, comes after renewed clashes broke out in early July as the country was celebrating the fifth anniversary of independence from Sudan.

The protection force, which will come from neighbouring countries, is mandated to ensure safe and free movement around the capital Juba, protect the town's airport and key facilities and stop any attacks against civilians and UN peacekeepers.

The resolution does not impose an arms embargo on the country - even though several Security Council members had pushed for such a measure.

The council does threaten, however, to consider the move, along with other sanctions, if the South Sudanese government does not allow the deployment of the new force or obstructs the work of UNMISS.

South Sudan rejects the resolution, said Akuei Bona Malwal, the country's ambassador to the United Nations, because "it didn't take into account or even consider the points of view of South Sudan."

The US-drafted resolution was passed by 11 votes in favour with abstentions by China, Egypt, Russia and Venezuela, which expressed concern of over the lack of consent from South Sudan to deploy the protection force and objected to the proposed arms embargo.

"Working on the American draft, a whole range of important issues were not resolved, such as the agreement of the authorities of South Sudan on the mandate of this force," said Peter Iliichev, Russian deputy ambassador to the UN.

David Pressman, a representative for the United States, said Washington recognized the importance of obtaining government consent.

"But the United States would point to the actions of the government - for while we expect the South Sudanese government to treat the United Nations like the partner that it is, that is simply not what is happening on the ground," he said.

He noted that South Sudanese government forces have actively blocked UN peacekeepers from carrying our their mandate and have been accused of killing and raping civilians.

Peter Wilson, Britain's deputy ambassador to the UN, welcomed the authorization of the protection force, but warned that the Security Council could have gone further to protect lives in South Sudan.

"Today, we also had a chance to stop the violence by implementing an immediate arms embargo on South Sudan," Wilson said. "On that, we failed - we must and we will return to this issue."

South Sudan, the world's youngest country, sank into chaos when a power struggle between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar broked into open military conflict in December 2013.

The recent violence dealt a blow to a peace agreement that was signed last year to end the conflict.

Last update: Fri, 12/08/2016 - 23:02

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