South Sudan Government Signals Acceptance of East African Force

  • Proposed deployment would protect displaced, aid-workers
  • Plan comes in wake of renewed violence that killed hundreds

South Sudan’s government said it accepts “in principle” an additional regional peacekeeping force after a power-sharing deal broke down last month when violence escalated and claimed hundreds of lives.

The proposed East African force would protect displaced people, aid workers and mediators, a government delegation said in an e-mail after meeting African leaders in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on Friday. The “composition, mandate, armament, deployment, timing and funding shall be agreed” by the government and peacekeeping nations, it said.

President Salva Kiir and ex-rebel leader Riek Machar formed a transitional government in April to end a civil war that began in late 2013 and has left tens of thousands of people dead. That deal was thrown into turmoil in July after Machar’s troops were driven from the capital, Juba, following attacks by Kiir’s forces with helicopter gunships, tanks and infantry. Machar is now in hiding and has been replaced as the nation’s vice president by Taban Deng Gai, who headed the delegation in Ethiopia and is backed by a faction of Machar’s group.

Nations at the summit included South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia. Kiir’s government had previously rejected the proposal that seeks to prevent the collapse of the internationally backed power-sharing government, while Machar has said he will only return to Juba if regional forces are deployed. The government statement referred to Machar’s return as an internal issue for his armed opposition group.

South Sudan has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest oil reserves. The recent violence in Juba saw government forces rape and kill members of the Nuer community, to which Machar belongs, the United Nations said on Thursday.

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