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JUBA - 5 Sep 2016

UN delegation in South Sudan pledges cooperation with Kiir govt

A delegation of visiting diplomats from the UN Security Council has pledged a “fresh spirit of cooperation” with the government of Salva Kiir, following talks during which they also pleaded with the government to allow reinforcement of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Kiir offered the visitors a tour of the area in front of his presidential palace where fighting took place in July. He also received from them assurances of their cooperation with his government.

UNMISS bases have been overwhelmed by influxes of displaced civilians, leaving peacekeepers struggling to police large populations and protect overstretched perimeters that have come under threat. The South Sudanese government has called on citizens to come out from the bases but the residents of the so-called 'protection sites' fear being attacked by government soldiers.

Since July the government has resisted a UN proposal to send 4000 East African troops to South Sudan to reinforce the struggling peacekeeping mission. “UNMISS here has so many foreign troops. So we will not even accept a single soldiers, we will not accept that,” Kiir said in mid-July.

Following appeals, however, Kiir's government last night softened its position, according to a joint statement issued with the UN Security Council last night.

“The United Nations Security Council and the Transitional Government of National Unity agreed to work in a fresh spirit of cooperation to advance the interests of south Sudanese people particularly the aspiration for justice, liberty and prosperity,” said Cabinet Minister Martin Elia Lomuro, reading a prepared statement last night in the presence of Kiir and US Ambassador Samantha Power.

“They agreed that the humanitarian and security needs of the people were paramount. To improve the security situation the Transitional Government of National Unity gave its consent to the deployment as part of UNMISS of the regional protection force recently authorized by United Nations Security Council resolution 2324,” Lomuro added.

Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, led the delegation on their three-day visit. In her remarks she pledged that the UN Mission in South Sudan would remain “impartial”. The ambassador revealed that talks are under way to decide the details of deployment of the regional protection force.

She also conceded that "early references to the force as an intervention brigade may have left a bad taste in some folks' mouth so part of the reason we are here also is to clarify what the force is here to do, and it is very deliberately... described as a regional protection force in that it is comprised of forces from the region in order to enhance protection here."

Fode Secke, the Ambassador of Senegal and a member of the delegation said, "This deployment will be done in collaboration with the South Sudanese government."

Talks about hybrid court

The joint statement also says that the South Sudanese government is ready to implement Chapter 5 of the August 2015 peace deal, “including to work with the African Union in setting up the hybrid court for South Sudan as soon as the AU provides proposals for the work.”

Kiir himself had also expressed opposition to implementing this element of the peace deal, according to an article that he published in The New York Times earlier this year.

The peace deal says that the hybrid court should consist of a mix of African and South Sudanese judges, but there is no progress so far in setting up the court.

Photo credit: Isaac Billy/UNMISS