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UN regional force to arrive in S Sudan in a month

UN regional force to arrive in S Sudan in a month

South Sudan

The first soldiers of a United Nations-mandated regional military force are set to be deployed to South Sudan within about a month, the outgoing UN official in charge of peacekeeping said on Friday.

“The vanguard element of the force will be deployed between end of April, beginning of May,” Herve Ladsous, the UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, told reporters.

The first contingent of soldiers to the African country will come from Bangladesh and Nepal, Ladsous said, adding the deployment will include a helicopter unit.

Other troops, notably Ethiopians, are expected to arrive in late May or early June.

“We have been moving heaven and earth to accelerate the deployment of the RPF (military force), but the government of South Sudan put a lot of hindrance in the process,” Ladsous said.

The deployment of the 4 000-strong force was decided after the government and rebel forces resumed fighting in July 2016.

The new force would add to the 13,000 UN peacekeepers already in the young country, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into civil war in 2013.

An estimated 100 000 people in South Sudan are suffering from famine amid the stop-start civil war in which starvation has become a battlefield tactic.

A million others are near starvation and some 5.5 million could face starvation within the next few months.

Ladsous, who has served in the high-profile UN peacekeeping operations job for six years, is stepping down in March.

He will be succeeded by Jean-Pierre Lacroix of France, appointed for a year pending a review of the world body’s functions and structure.

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