JUBA, South Sudan — South Sudan’s government has accepted with “no conditions” an increase in the peacekeeping force in the country as mandated by the U.N. Security Council in August, Minister of Cabinet Affairs Martin Lomuro told a news agency Saturday.
“I expect them to arrive at any time. The challenge is now on the U.N. to implement and fulfill their promises,” Lomuro said in an interview.
The unanimous decision by South Sudan’s Cabinet ends a three-month limbo over whether the peacekeeping force could be increased and eliminates a potential showdown with the U.N. Security Council. South Sudan already has 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers.
The additional peacekeepers were ordered by the U.N. Security Council after fighting killed hundreds of people in the capital, Juba, in July, and set off fighting across the country.
But South Sudan argued that added peacekeepers would violate the country’s sovereignty. President Salva Kiir’s government said it needed to approve issues like the size of the force, the kind of weapons it will use, and which countries the troops will come from.
Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said that South Sudan’s unwillingness to allow the increased force to deploy was one of several ingredients that have created a “climate conducive to mass atrocities,” in the troubled East African nation. She said the U.S. would support an arms embargo on South Sudan and targeted sanctions on its political leaders, including a vocal critic of the regional force, Minister of Information Michael Makuei.
Makuei did not comment on the agreement to enlarge the peacekeeping force or attend the ministers meeting, saying he was sick.
The peacekeepers already in South Sudan have been frequently criticized for failing to protect civilians, but the additional 4,000 troops from African nations will have a bolstered mandate to use force.
Recently the U.N. has warned that South Sudan is at risk of genocide. On November 10th, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that current “peacekeeping operations do not have the appropriate reach, manpower or capabilities to stop mass atrocities.”