14 August 2016

Inside Igad’s blueprint to have peacekeeping force in S. Sudan

The 15-member UN Security Council, the world body’s most powerful organ, on Friday reached agreement on the draft resolution for the deployment of an additional 4,000 peacekeeping force [drawn from regional countries] to South Sudan amid continued protests from diplomats from the world’s youngest nation.

The voting in favour of the proposal, by at least 11 members of the Security Council, now brings the total number of peacekeepers to about 17,000. However, this time round they have a revised mandate requiring them to use “all necessary means” to protect UN personnel and installations and to take “proactive” methods to protect civilians from threats posed by forces loyal to the two principle factions, president Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar.

The approval also came as the mandate of the ongoing peacekeeping operation, better known as the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), was about expire. UNMISS has repeatedly been criticised for failing to protect civilians when UN sites came under attack when fresh fighting broke out last month.

Days to the Security Council voting, president Kiir’s government had strongly warned against such a force, arguing that it will undermine his country’s sovereignty.

Road to deployment
The protests came only days after the country had agreed to the deployment of a regional force under the framework of the Intergovernmental Authority Development (Igad). However, after agreeing to the force, it emerged that the regional force’s commander would be directly under the UN command, which Juba rejected.

In the coming days, representatives of the UN Security Council are expected to be working with Igad governments to finalise the work plan for the deployment. The work plan had already been laid by the Eastern Africa chiefs of defence forces (CDFs)/chiefs of staff during a series of meetings.

On July 15, the CDFs first travelled to Juba for an on spot assessment following fresh fighting a week earlier. They later held meetings with president Kiir, his chief of general staff, Gen Paul Malong and the special representative of UNMISS, Ms Ellen Margrethe.

The findings set the pace for discussions during the Igad-plus heads of state meeting in the Rwandan capital Kigali on July 16 and later forced discussions for the resolution by the African Union (AU) heads of state a day later for the deployment of the regional force to contain the fighting.

As a follow-up, the CDFs met again in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on July 29 and drew a work plan for the force. Having reviewed the situation earlier on, the army chiefs came up with a working plan that includes, first seeking the commitment of the South Sudan/SPLA army/Transitional Government of National Unity; Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance assets (ISTAR); force composition, among others.

The Igad-plus heads of state summit last week in Addis Ababa endorsed this work plan and now left it to the UN Security Council to approve the deployment and set pace for the related conversations.

The meeting chaired by Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn was attended by other Igad heads of state such as President Museveni, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Sudan’s Omar-al-Bashir, Somali’s Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh. President Kiir was represented by Gen Taban Deng Gai.

Also present at the meeting were members of the AU ad hoc committee on South Sudan led by Rwandan president Paul Kagame, while other countries on the team – Algeria, South Africa, Chad and Nigeria – were represented by special envoys.

With the work plan already existing, UN officials, starting next week are expected to start conversations.

South Sudan protests
US deputy ambassador to the UN David Pressman in his presentation on Friday said they were aware of South Sudan’s reservations regarding the regional force, but was quick to add; “we are going into this eyes wide open.”

“We recognise that the South Sudan government, 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.


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