November 22, 2016 (JUBA)-South Sudanese government on Tuesday downplayed reports insinuating new Japanese troops deployed as part of the United Nations peace keeping troops in the country could use force if the situation requires.
A contingent of 130 Japanese peacekeepers on Monday arrived in Juba, where they will join the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The total number of the Japanese troops, 350 peacekeepers, are expected to be deployed in South Sudan by December 15, 2016.
They are mainly tasked with the building of infrastructure in the troubled South Sudan. Also they would guard U.N. protection sites which have been attacked last July by the government forces.
Presidential adviser on military affairs told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that any unilateral act would contravene the Status Of Force Agreement (SOFA), which the United Nations and the host country had signed.
“South Sudan is a sovereign state and any deployment to any independent country is done in a way that it complements the work of the government and sovereign institutions. So any troops coming into the country, whether they are from Japan or any other country have to conduct their activities in accordance with the Status Of Force Agreement and with the consent of a sovereign government”, said Daniel Awet Akot, a leading member of the faction of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) under president Salva Kiir.
Akot revealed that the government and the United Nations have not concluded discussions about the nature of the additional peacekeeping force authorized by the United Nations Security Council to protect civilians, separate two warring sites and disarm any belligerent force refusing to comply with the rules of engagement and acting in a manner undermining stability and safety of civilians.
Japanese troops, he said, cannot go into combat.without the consent of the host government
“That is not their work and it will not happen. Whatever they will be doing will have to be consistent and in conformity to the international norms. The consent of the government counts. It is very important and so I want to assure our people not to panic about what is reported in the media,” he said.
Meanwhile, the undersecretary of the ministry of foreign affairs also downplayed the fear, saying that the 2012 SOFA which the government signed with United Nations requires cooperation between the mission and the government than taking unilateral military operations.