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South Sudan opposition leader objects to sending troops to Somalia

August 16, 2011 (JUBA) - The leader of an opposition political party in South Sudan on Tuesday expressed dissatisfaction with a senior member of the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), for proposing that the new country send troops to war-ravaged Somalia as part of the African Union peacekeeping force there.

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Somalis displaced from their home villages by famine and drought pass an African Union armored vehicle at a feeding center on August 16, 2011 in Mogadishu, Somalia (AFP)

Deng Alor Kuol, the caretaker minister of foreign affairs said the newly independent country was “prepared” to offer a helping hand in support to Somalia in its commitment to peace in Africa in comments to the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme, on Monday.

“It is part of our responsibility to help our Somalia brothers and sisters to achieve peace," Alor said.

“We, as Africans, must be in the lead to alleviate problems before we ask the Western world or anyone else, to come to our help”, he added.

Some 3.7 million Somalis are at risk of starvation, the majority of them in the south of the country that has been in a state of armed anarchy for two decades, complicating any humanitarian relief effort.

Around 100,000 Somalis who have fled to the capital Mogadishu from other parts of the country due to a severe drought are facing famine, and aid groups are struggling to provide emergency supplies.

But Peter Abdullah Raman Sule, the leader of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Tuesday said the new country should focus on addressing its internal security challenges before offering to send troops abroad.

“There is no doubt that South Sudan as a member of the international community should contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability of any country in the world, especially the African countries to which it belongs, but I think this is not yet time”, said Sule.

“South Sudan has a lot of challenges which I think should be addressed before reaching out with help” he added.

“If we go without having solved our own problems, what examples are we giving the world? How would our intervention be perceived [...] if we have not addressed our own issues”, asked the opposition leader.

Several rebels groups operate in South Sudan including the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as well a politically motivated rebellions. South Sudan also suffers from cattle raiding and banditry.

The veteran politician argued that there is no logic in sending troops to Somalia at a time the country needs provide adequate security and maintain stability so the government can implement development projects.

Garang Makuac Deng, a businessman in Juba said he would prefer that the government give priority to internal security matters before it could think of any international intervention. He argued that there appears to be an increase in criminal activity in the new nation.

"Shops and stores are broken during the day by organized groups. Women are robbed and people suspected of having money are killed. They even go to individual houses suspected of having money. These are issues which the government should address first”, explained Deng

Many African units make up the UN peacekeeping mission to South Sudan, which became independent on July 9th as part of a 2005 peace deal.