South Sudan’s government has agreed to accept the deployment of a UN-mandated regional force in Juba after months of hesitation, a spokesman has said.
“I would like therefore to inform the people on behalf of the transitional government of national unity that your cabinet has resolved unanimously to allow the deployment of the regional protection force anytime from now,” deputy Information Minister Akol Paul Kordit said late Friday.
His announcement came after lengthy deliberations during a cabinet meeting chaired by President Salva Kiir, but no details were given about when and where the force would be deployed.
Following an outbreak of fighting in July, the UN Security Council authorised the deployment of an additional 4,000 troops from East Africa with a stronger mandate than the 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission UNMISS.
Kiir initially opposed the deployment of additional troops as a breach of national sovereignty but later agreed to their deployment on September 4.
Since then his government has been accused by the UN of dragging its heels and failing to take concrete action. The Security Council has threatened to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan if the government blocks the deployment.
In October UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Juba government had proposed “significant limitations” to the new force which it said should only protect UN compounds and installations.
“These limitations clearly contravene the intention of resolution 2304” setting up the force, wrote Ban.
The UN wants the regional force to be authorised to use all necessary means to ensure security in Juba, including at the airport and to help protect UN premises.
Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda will contribute infantry troops to the new force and Rwanda has also offered to deploy tactical helicopters, which South Sudan has in the past opposed.
Kordit said the force will “bring peace in this country, to end the suffering of the people of South Sudan”.