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NEW YORK - 20 Feb 2016

UN plans to send peacekeepers to Upper Nile west bank

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) plans to dispatch troops to the west bank of the Nile in Upper Nile State to maintain a “regular troop presence” for the first time since the start of the civil war in December 2013.

Most of Upper Nile State's west bank is controlled by the Aguelek forces of General Johnson Olony, which are aligned to the SPLM-IO, and covers most of the territory of the Shilluk (Collo) tribe.

The United Nations has three bases on the east bank – in Malakal, Renk and Melut – but none on the opposite bank.

A top UNMISS official disclosed yesterday in a briefing to the UN Security Council in New York that the step was part of a broader plan to adopt “a more agile force posture.”

Moustapha Soumare, the UN Deputy Special Representative in South Sudan, said that “the Mission plans to deploy a regular troop presence on the west bank of the Nile, as well as within Malakal, with a focus on creating conditions conducive for IDPs to voluntarily relocate from the Malakal protection site.”

It appears that the UNMISS plans for this deployment predate the outbreak of violence at the Malakal protection site on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Soumare did not say that the violence in Malakal would cancel the UNMISS plan to dispatch troops to the west bank, noting only, “As we speak, UNMISS uniformed personnel are undertaking robust measures to strengthen physical security within and around the [Malakal] site.”

File photo: IDPs in Kodok, western Upper Nile State