November 26, 2016 (JUBA) - South Sudanese government has relinquished conditions it previously attached to the deployment of the regional protection force, declaring readiness to accept the deployment of the force at any time.
The circumstances under which the government changed its position remain unclear. Although it previously said it consented in principle to the protection force in September, officials said at the time that details still needed to be worked out.
Observers associate the decision to the international pressure to accept the force, which will help the existing United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to stabilise the five-year-old nation, where a civil conflict erupted in December 2013 and a peace deal in 2015 failed to hold, despite the issuance of repeated messages of assurances to implement it.
Speaking to reporters after the regular cabinet meeting on Friday, Deputy Information Minister Akol Paul Kordit the cabinet chaired by President Salva Kiir himself and attended by First Vice President Taban Deng Gai and ministers of the unity government, agreed unanimously on outstanding issues to allow deployment of the regional protection force anytime.
He did not say what the contentious matters were. But Government Spokesperson and Information Minister Michael Makuei said in September that the outstanding matters relates to nationality and number of soldiers, type of weaponry and exact role of the new force.
“The council of ministers in its regular meeting today chaired by his excellency the President of the Republic, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, resolved and agreed unanimously to accept and allow the deployment of the regional protection force.
There are no conditions attached. We have agreed without preconditions, because the resolution is clear and we want the country to move forward," said Kordit in a statement broadcast by the state owned South Sudan television on Friday.
"So our committee is going to finalise the deployment process, he added"
After deadly clashes erupted in Juba in July, between troops loyal to President Kiir and soldiers backing his main political rival and leader of armed opposition, Riek Machar, who returned to the country to take up his position as the First Vice President in accordance with the August 2015 peace agreement, the Security Council authorized a 4,000-strong regional protection force to enhance the fighting capacity of the existing 12,000 of the United Nations mission peacekeeping troops in the country.
The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), a body of international officials and experts set up in 2015 to monitor the shaky peace deal, welcomed the cabinet’s decision and said the deployment could start with "immediate effect".
South Sudanese Cabinet Affairs Minister Martin Elia Lomuro told diplomats on Friday during a briefing that “all outstanding issues" related to the deployment had been resolved with the United Nations.