UN to double size of peacekeeping force in S. Sudan

UN to double size of peacekeeping force in S. Sudan

UN to double size of peacekeeping force in S. Sudan

The UN will double the size of its peacekeeping force in conflict-torn South Sudan to nearly 14,000 to quell ethnic and political violence that has killed hundreds of people in the world's youngest country.

After UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for the force to be increased to counter a major outbreak of violence, the Security Council yesterday unanimously approved a temporary increase of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to 12,500 military and 1,323 police personnel from a current combined strength of 7,000.

The reinforcement will be made by transferring units from other UN forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Abyei, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia.

In a resolution passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which authorises the use of force, the 15-member Security Council demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities and opening of a dialogue between rival factions It condemned fighting and violence targeting civilians and specific ethnic and other communities as well as attacks and threats against UNMISS.

Last week, 2,000 heavily armed rebels stormed an UNMISS base at Akobo in the restive Jonglei state in a brazen attack that killed two Indian peacekeepers and about 20 civilians. One Indian peacekeeper was wounded.

The resolution condemned the attack in the strongest terms. Tensions within South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011 after seceding from Sudan, turned into open conflict on December 15 when President Salva Kiir's government said soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, dismissed in July, launched an attempted coup.

"I have consistently called on President Salva Kiir and opposition political leaders to come to the table and find a political way out of this crisis," Ban told the Security Council, citing reports of ethnically targeted violence, extra-judicial killings and mass graves.

"Whatever the differences, nothing can justify the violence that has engulfed their young nation."

He stressed there could be no military solution to the conflict, reiterating his determination to ensure that UNMISS has the means to carry out its central task of protecting civilians. "Attacks on civilians and the UN peacekeepers must cease immediately," Ban said.