South Sudan accepts UN plan to send 4,000 additional peacekeepers

South Sudan's transitional government on Sunday accepted the deployment of an additional 4,000 UN peacekeepers following three days of negotiations with diplomats from the United Nations over the security situation in the east African country.

The government also committed to guaranteeing the free movement of the UN troops and to supporting the soldiers in their role to protect the civilian population, said Martin Elia Lomoro, South Sudan's minister of cabinet affairs.

Lomoro, who spoke to journalists in Juba after the meeting, read the other commitments made by South Sudan's transitional government during the talks involving President Salva Kiir and UN diplomats who arrived Friday. The distribution of humanitarian aid also is to be supported by the transitional government under the agreement.

The government in Juba previously had spoken out against the decision to send additional peacekeepers. The UN Security Council subsequently threatened to impose sanctions and a weapons embargo against the country, where about 13,500 UN peacekeepers currently are deployed.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, said Friday the UN diplomats were in Juba to clarify what the additional peacekeepers would do. The Security Council had earlier criticized the "obstruction" of UN peacekeeping and humanitarian work in South Sudan.

Lomoro said the UN Security Council and the South Sudanese government agreed to work "in a fresh spirit of cooperation to advance the interest of South Sudanese people, particularly their aspiration for justice, liberty and prosperity."

He said the parties agreed that the humanitarian and security needs of the people were "paramount."

Tens of thousands in South Sudan have been killed and more than 2 million displaced since December 2013, when a power struggle between Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar evolved into a military conflict. In July violence erupted again in Juba between Kiir's forces and supporters of Machar, killing 300 people in a matter of days.

Both sides to the conflict have been accused of obstructing peacekeeping operations, while the peacekeepers have been accused of not doing enough to protect civilians from attacks and abuse.

Power said Sunday the UN operation had "an impartial mandate" to protect all civilians.

"The number one obstacle to them fulfilling that mandate up to this point has been the severe restrictions on their movement," she said. "We are very encouraged that President Kiir was very clear in the meeting that that's not his intention, that he has asked that [UN peacekeepers] be granted free movement, that humanitarian actors be able to provide relief to those in need, no matter where they are, no matter where they come from."

She said the next step following the high-level commitments achieved during the talks was to work out how to see them through.

Last update: Mon, 05/09/2016 - 00:34
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