• Countries to send 4,000 soldiers over government objections
  • Government forces prevented UN peacekeepers from providing aid

The United Nations Security Council approved an expanded mandate for its peacekeepers and added an additional 4,000 troops to its mission in South Sudan, rebuffing government objections, in a bid to halt an all-out civil war in the oil-producing country.

The Security Council on Friday granted additional powers to peacekeepers enabling them to use "all necessary means" to protect UN personnel and to take "proactive" measures to protect civilians from threats.

“The whole point about this process is fighting needs to stop and the peace process needs to be embarked on with some seriousness,” said Peter Wilson, U.K. deputy permanent representative to the UN. “The government of South Sudan has an opportunity to prove to the world and more importantly to its own people that it is serious about peace.”

Wilson said if the government of South Sudan obstructs the regional force, the Security Council will consider an arms embargo. Fighting that flared last month in the capital, Juba, has thrown into turmoil a peace deal seeking to end the African nation’s conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Transitional Government

The additional troops from Africa will raise the total number of peacekeepers to about 17,000. The UN Mission in South Sudan has been criticized for failing to protect civilians at refugee camps.

President Salva Kiir formed a transitional government with ex-rebel leader Riek Machar in April after tens of thousands of people were killed in fighting and over 2 million people were displaced since late 2013. In early July, fighting broke out again after Kiir’s troops drove out Machar and his forces from Juba. Hundreds died in the fighting, which the UN said involved targeted ethnic killings and rapes mostly by soldiers loyal to Kiir. Machar has said he will only return to the capital if regional forces are deployed.

South Sudan, founded in 2011, has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest oil reserves, yet is pumping as little as 120,000 barrels per day because of the conflict. 

The U.S. should support African solutions rather than pushing a force that would destroy the country, South Sudan presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said before the UN vote. The U.S.-backed proposal “completely undoes the sovereignty of the Republic of South Sudan and we will just end up as a protectorate or a mandate of the United Nations,” he said.

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