December 17, 2016 7:30:04 am
The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously passed a draft resolution extending its peacekeeping mission in violence-plagued South Sudan by a year. The US-drafted resolution includes stronger language aimed at protecting civilians, saying peacekeepers should do more to prevent and respond to sexual attacks in the country. It also calls on peacekeepers to monitor, investigate and report on hate speech incidents and incitements to violence.
In a vote of 15-0, council members also proposed creation of a 4,000-troop Regional Protection Force in addition to the approximately 13,000 peacekeepers already there, mainly to ensure safe movement in and around the capital of Juba and to protect the airport there.
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The mandate maintains its original core functions, including the protection of civilians, monitoring and investigating human rights violations and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Two years after the African country’s independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011, South Sudan was plunged into ethnic violence when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice president and a Nuer. The document asks both sides to return to a peace deal signed in August 2015.
On Thursday, the council extended the mandate by a day so its divided members could try to reach agreement on prolonging the mission and addressing the crisis in the country. The mission’s mandate expired the same day. Russia’s Deputy UN ambassador Petr Iliichev said after the vote Friday that his country voted for the resolution in part because of the importance of a UN presence in the country but he admonished the United States for pushing through its interests over those of other countries.
Russia and others had objected, for example, to language that threatens to impose sanctions and provisions such as the use of drones. South Sudan’s UN Ambassador Joseph Mourn Majak Ngor Malok said his country welcomed the mission’s renewal, but said he was also disappointed that the concerns of his and other countries were not considered.
“The government of South Sudan continues to oppose the negative threats of sanctions and punishment, which can only undermine cooperation,” he said. The draft resolution comes after a team of UN investigators told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday that South Sudan is “on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war which could destabilize the entire region.”
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