South Sudanese president warns over deployment of regional forces
South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Sunday warned that his government could reconsider its decision on the deployment of regional protection forces mandated by the United Nations Security Council.
“They [regional protection forces] have come and the way they have started is already becoming a matter of concern. They want to deploy at the airport. They also want whatever they bring into the country not to be checked,” warned the South Sudanese leader.
In August 2016, the UN Security Council, following a request by the East African regional bloc (IGAD), approved the deployment of a 4,000-strong protection force to secure Juba in the aftermath of renewed clashes that occurred in the capital in July.
South Sudan’s Transitional Government of National Unity confirmed its unconditional consent to the deployment of the regional forces in a communiqué to the UN Security Council on November 30, 2016.
On Sunday, however, the South Sudanese unexpected accused the world body of “behaving as a parallel government” over the forces.
“If they [UN] don’t want to cooperate, we have the right to cancel the deployment [of the regional forces],” said Kiir during a meeting with the country’s security and intelligence officials in Juba.
The South Sudanese leader also claimed that the UN mission in the country had declined to renew their flight permit, warning that this could negatively impact on flight operations in the war-torn nation.
“I told Kuol Manyang [the defence minister] that if they [UN] don’t apply for renewal of permits, no flight, simple. So they did not fly on Friday and again today and now they are making noise. They want to talk to me. I have nothing to discuss with them about this. If they want to fly, let them apply for permit”, stressed Kiir.
It remains unclear what prompted the South Sudanese leaders to make such warnings, barely a month after the first batch of regional protection forces arrived in the country.
Despite the August 2015 peace agreement, South Sudan slipped back into conflict due to renewed clashes between rival forces – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) loyal to President Kiir and the armed opposition backing former First Vice-President Riek Machar.
The deployment of the 4,000-strong regional protection force was authorized by the UN Security Council in its Resolution 2304 (2016).
The UN says the force will provide protection to key facilities in Juba and the main routes into and out of the city. It will also strengthen the security of UN protection of civilians’ sites and other UN premises.
The arrival of the first company of Rwandan soldiers, in addition to a Nepalese High Readiness company and more than 100 Bangladeshi engineers already in the mission area marks the beginning of the phased deployment of the regional protection force, David Shearer, head of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), earlier said.