September 4, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s main armed opposition faction led by former First Vice President, Riek Machar, said it has commended the “clear message” from the visiting United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to deploy thousands of more peacekeepers to the troubled nation with the mandate to protect the people of South Sudan from the “irresponsible” government led by President Salva Kiir.
- South Sudan’s former FVP Riek Machar, speaking to visitors at his residence in Khartoum, on 1 September 2016 (courtesy photo of SPLM-IO)
A five-member team from the UN Security Council, led by Samantha Power, the United States permanent representative to the Council, visited Juba from Thursday for talks with the government on the deployment of 4,000 “protection force” and to acquaint themselves with the humanitarian situation on the ground.
The Security Council members reminded President Kiir’s government about the resolution the Council passed in August for the deployment of the troops and called on the government to comply.
The UN Security Council also condemned the replacement of Machar after the 8 July clashes, saying the action was “inconsistent” with the peace agreement signed by Kiir and Machar in August last year, which ended 21 months of civil war. The East African regional bloc, IGAD, also called for reinstatement of Machar as the First Vice President upon his return to Juba and once the regional force is deployed in the capital.
The government had earlier rejected the deployment of the forces, but gradually modified its position by accepting the force deployment in “principle” subject to further negotiations on the details of the force.
However, in a public statement while in Juba, the U.S. Representative to the Security Council, Samantha Power, warned the government against rejecting the deployment of the troops, revealing that any noncompliance would result to the Council resorting to a “Plan B.”
Although no details have yet emerged about what the Plan B would be, the UNSC resolution includes imposition of sanctions and arms embargo on the country which is already experiencing deteriorating economic situation.
The Security Council also urged the African Union to establish an hybrid court in South Sudan to try leaders implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity beginning from 15 December 2013 when civilians were massacred, including in the capital, Juba.
Meanwhile, the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) under the leadership of Machar said they welcomed the message from the UN Security Council to force the “regime” to accept the deployment of the foreign troops.
“Sure, we welcome it. This is a clear message to the regime in Juba. Actually our leadership proposed the need to deploy a third party force in Juba as a buffer between the two rival national forces. It was part of the cessation of hostilities arrangement declared on July 11, 2016,” James Gatdet Dak, opposition leader’s spokesman told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
He also said President Kiir’s government is a “failed leadership” which has turned against its own citizens, arguing that it was important the people should be temporarily protected by foreign forces from “this irresponsible government” until the needed change is effected in the country.
“South Sudan under the leadership of Salva Kiir is irresponsible which has used and turned the state machinery against its own people. The army, the police and the other security organs are the ones looting the property of the citizens, raping their women and young girls, killing and torturing their own people, even in the heart of the city, Juba. It is a failed, perverted leadership,” he said.
He also said it was equally important for the world body to take “serious note of the fact that as long as Salva Kiir remains the head of state, South Sudan will never recover.”
He argued that the opposition forces of the SPLA-IO loyal to Machar are far more disciplined than the forces loyal to Kiir, saying this was demonstrated during the recent fighting in Juba where no opposition forces involved in the looting of civilians in the locations they briefly controlled in the capital, including Gudele area to the west.
Dak said it was a shame for President Kiir and his government that a foreign force has to be deployed to the country, including in the national capital, Juba, in order to intervene by protecting the citizens from their own government.