East African Mediator Proposes Regional Force for South Sudan

East African mediators want armed units from the region to protect cease-fire monitors and oil fields in South Sudan, said Seyoum Mesfin, chief envoy from the seven-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi have made a “positive response” to requests for participation in the “neutral stabilization and protection force,” Seyoum told reporters today in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital where peace talks have been taking place.

The United Nations and the African Union would have to approve the force, said Seyoum, a former Ethiopian foreign minister. Regional leaders will discuss the proposal at a summit to be held before negotiations between South Sudan’s government and rebels resume on March 20, he said.

Fighting that started in South Sudan Dec. 15 has left thousands of people dead and forced at least 860,000 more to flee their homes, according to the UN, which already has more than 8,000 peace-keepers and police in the world’s newest nation.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil reserves, according to BP Plc (BP/) data. The country’s low-sulfur crude is prized by Japanese buyers as a cleaner-burning fuel for power generation.

The country is pumping about 160,000 barrels a day from a capacity of as much as 400,000 barrels per day, according to the government.

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa at wdavison3@bloomberg.net

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