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UN peacekeepers to protect South Sudanese VIPs

UNMISS peacekeepers from Rwanda wait to escort members of the visiting U.N. Security Council on Friday, September 2, 2016 (AP/Justin Lynch file Photo)
June 23, 2018 (JUBA) - IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan said the parties to the peace revitalization process have agreed to task the United Nations peacekeepers with the protection of VIPs during the transitional period.

In his briefing to the IGAD head of states and governments, Ismail Wais informed the meeting that there remains "four key areas of disagreement on the security arrangements" including determination of demilitarized areas; modalities and exemption from cantonment; timeframe for unification of forces, and the number of parties’ representatives in the Joint Transitional Security Committee.

However, the parties have largely reached compromises over the outstanding issues in this chapter of the security arrangements, more than what has been agreed on the governance or power-sharing chapter.

So, among others, they agreed to confer the sensitive protection of VIPs to the UN peacekeepers deployed in the country to avoid difference over who will protect this or that leader as they agreed to merge the troops.

The parties agreed on "the full deployment of the RPF (Regional Protection Force) in accordance with its mandate and for IGAD to request UNSC (UN Security Council)for a review of its mandate to include VIPs protection," Wais said.

The implementation of the peace agreement collapsed after the clashes between soldiers loyal to President Kiir and his former First Vice-President Machar at the South Sudanese presidency on 8 July 2016. The matter has ruined the confidence between the two leaders and plunged the country was plunged into civil war again.

During the face-to-face meeting, the two leaders raised the incident. President Kiir said he instructed his guards to protect Machar and Machar rejected the claim.

Following the clashes, the UN Security Council, in August 2016 decided to deploy 4,000 troops to beef up the existing 13,000 UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) force. The Regional Protection Force will be mandated to protect key installations like the Juba airport, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and provide protection to the civilians.

The IGAD special envoy said the parties further agreed "on unification of forces rather than integration" and to establish a Joint Integrated Police and Security Services. Also, they agreed that the duration for activities in the cantonment sites to be 90 days and reached an agreement on the composition of the Joint Transitional Security Committee.

In addition, they agreed on the architecture of the transitional security arrangements, he said.

Regarding the disagreements, the IGAD believes the parties have to accept the proposed solutions included in the Bridging Proposal.

Wais called on the heads of states and governments to "engage the parties to sign the revitalized Agreement prepared based on IGAD’s bridging proposal".

(ST)