United Nations peacekeepers in South Sudan have a robust new mandate and thousands of additional troops despite government opposition to the move, raising the possibility of clashes between blue helmets and the country’s armed forces.
The Security Council voted Friday to a approve a resolution granting expanded powers to peacekeepers requiring them to use “all necessary means” to protect U.N. personnel and installations and to take “proactive” measures to protect civilians from threats. The vote was 11 in favor with four abstentions.
The resolution also adds an additional 4,000 troops from Africa, bringing the peacekeeping force’s troops to around 17,000.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan, or UNMISS, has been criticized for failing to protect civilians when U.N. sites came under attack last month.
U.S. deputy ambassador David Pressman he was aware of South Sudan’s reservations regarding the regional force.
“We’re going into this eyes wide open. We recognize that the government of South Sudan, which has agreed to the protection force in principle, has and continues to express a number of concerns on the modalities of the resolution. That’s why the resolution keeps an eye toward continued conversation with the government,” Pressman said.
The resolution does not impose an arms embargo as many, including more than a dozen U.S. lawmakers, have demanded but instead threatens a possible arms embargo if South Sudan does not cooperate, diplomats said.
South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has been riven by ethnic violence nearly since it was founded in 2011, with civil war breaking out in 2013 between the Dinka and Nuer peoples. A peace agreement was signed in August, but fighting continues.
The civil war began in December 2013 when government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battled rebels led by his former deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the fighting and over 2 million people were displaced.
Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal in August 2015 under which Machar was to be first vice president, but fighting continued and last month hundreds of people were killed when army factions loyal to the two men clashed in the capital Juba.
The resolution demands that South Sudan’s leaders immediately end the fighting and implement the peace deal.
Story by the Associated Press