Saturday, September 10, 2016

South Sudan: UN Threatens South Sudan With Arms Embargo
By Fred Oluoch
East African

South Sudan faces an arms embargo by the United Nations Security Council after President Salva Kiir's government appeared to be reneging on an agreement to deploy a 4,000-strong protection force in Juba.

The Council had threatened an arms embargo if Juba did not co-operate on the protection force by the September 15 deadline.

"If they don't co-operate and if the deployment doesn't happen, the UN Security Council will have to consider the steps that we've laid out, which include targeted sanctions and an arms embargo," said US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power.

Later in the week, the US special envoy to South Sudan Donald Booth told Congress that the US will support an UN arms embargo on South Sudan.

After the UN Security Council members made a four-day visit to Juba and secured an assurance from President Kiir on the deployment, top government officials are now saying that Juba will not accept troops from the frontline countries and that the international community should look elsewhere.

South Sudan government spokesperson Micahel Makuei said in a statement that Juba "consented" to the deployment of the regional protection force, but did not "accept" its deployment, adding that anyone who enters South Sudan without consent is an "invader."

That means Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda, who were to provide the 4,000 regional protections force, have to weigh their options, even as South Sudan ambassador to Kenya Chol Ajongo told The EastAfrican that no single country from the region has been mentioned as having a conflict of interest.

"The government accepted the deployment on principle but the technicalities are still being discussed in regard to the number of troops, the countries they come from, the type of weapons they will be carrying and where they will be stationed," said Mr Ajongo.

Twenty four hours after President Kiir met with the United Nations Security delegation, presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny issued a statement saying the government would not accept deployment of troops from countries sharing immediate borders with the young nation "because they have already developed conflicting interests with the country."

While Uganda and Sudan had been ruled out due to "vested interests" in South Sudan, Juba has also been uneasy with Ethiopia, which has been giving refuge to rebel leader Riek Machar for most of the two and half-year civil war.

Kenya has been striving to remain neutral but some South Sudan government officials are not happy that Nairobi allows Dr Machar to talk to the press freely whenever he is in the country.

Dr Machar -- who is currently in Khartoum -- has delayed his intended visit to Addis Ababa because it would compromise Ethiopia's deployment, the Horn of Africa country is supposed to provide the bulk of the 4,000 regional protection force.

Former Sudan People's Liberation Movement secretary-general Pagan Amum -- a member of the former detainees who is currently in self-exile in the United States -- said the Security Council should now think of plan B because the South Sudan government is "playing games with the world."

According to Resolution 2304 sponsored by the US and passed by the UN Security Council last month, the regional protection force is supposed to secure Juba and protect the internally displaced in the UN camps; provide security for the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC); protect humanitarian agencies and protect key installations like the Juba International Airport.

However, the government is opposed to foreign forces taking over the airport as they consider the move an "invasion" and an infringement of the country's sovereignty.

"We don't want a situation where it would appear that foreign forces are coming to protect the people of South Sudan from their government. They have to co-operate with the government at every stage," said Mr Ajongo.

Civilians and foreigners, including relief workers, were targeted in the July fighting by South Sudanese soldiers who raped women and executed a local journalist.

There are already 12,000 troops of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) protecting the 1.6 million internally displaced people in various parts of the country.

On Thursday, the UK announced that it will provide an additional 100 troops bringing the total number to 400, to bolster UNMISS.

The UK troops, who have been in South Sudan since June, are involved in vital engineering work to strengthen the country's infrastructure as well as providing advisory support to UNMISS headquarters in Juba.

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