On Friday, the UN Secretary Council passed a draft resolution that will allow a deployment of 4,000 troops in order to support the 13,000 peacekeepers that are already in the world’s newest country. The resolution also threatens those who can undermine regional stability and warns that the council will take appropriate measures including sanctions.
Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the UN, described the measure as an “upgrade” of the current UN mission. The head of the UN Human Rights Commission said that the world powers can stop a “Rwanda-like” genocide if the 4,000-strong protection force is deployed immediately and a court to prosecute atrocities is set-up.
The UN mission in South Sudan, however, has been criticized repeatedly for failing to protect civilians since the conflict started in 2013 when the long-running enmity between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar exploded into violent and ethnic conflict. In fact, human rights organizations have been calling on the UN to do more to protect civilians, emphasizing the reports of government soldiers raping women next to peacekeeping compounds.
International pressure, including the threat of sanctions, also failed to stop the clashes so far. Even “despite the August 2015 peace agreement, the warring parties continue to kill, rape and displace communities with impunity,” said New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, Yasmin Sooka, said that the country “stands on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war, which could destabilize the entire region.” She added that fighting was expected to escalate now as the dry season has started. Since the conflict erupted in 2013, thousands of people were killed and almost 3 million had been displaced.
The US and other countries called the one-day meeting right after Sooka’s commission reported that ethnic cleansing was already taking place. Presiden Salva Kiir, on the other hand, has denied that there is any ethnic cleansing. Moreover, Kuol Alor Kuol Arop, South Sudan’s ambassador at the council, said that there is no need for the special session at all.
Nevertheless, South Sudan’s government allows the deployment of the additional peacekeeping force. Since it has not arrived yet, Yasmin Sooka said that there were fears of limited operation that will protect only Juba. She said that “people all across the country asked that it not be restricted to the capital if it is to protect civilians across South Sudan.”
The resolution was adopted without a vote, thereby reminding the government of its responsibility in protecting its nation against genocide, violence, and rape.
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