African leaders moot South Sudan protection force

African leaders moot South Sudan protection force

KIGALI – Agence France-Presse
African leaders moot South Sudan protection force

A general view shows the deserted check-point market after it was destroyed in the recent fighting in Jabel area of Juba, South Sudan, July 16, 2016. REUTERS photo

African leaders on July 18 approved a proposal to deploy a regional protection force to South Sudan with a more robust mandate than the U.N. peacekeeping mission currently there.

“The U.N. doesn’t have the mandate to impose peace,” African Union (AU) Peace and Security Commissioner Smail Chergui said at a summit in Kigali.

“They are there where there is peace to keep. African troops are ready to engage in very difficult situations. It is our responsibility,” he added.

A shaky ceasefire has held in South Sudan for a week after four days of bloody clashes between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those supporting his rival Vice-President Riek Machar.

At least 300 people were killed, and tens of thousands fled their homes.

The violence raised fears of a breakdown in protracted efforts to end a civil war that began in December 2013 with battles in Juba between the same rival groups.

The 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, has faced criticism for failing to stem the latest bloodshed or fully protect civilians during the fighting.

Meanwhile, the U.N. said more than 5,000 people have fled South Sudan into neighboring Uganda since the latest outbreak of violence began on July 7, voicing fears that more could follow.

An estimated 90 percent of those who have crossed the border in recent days were women and children, the U.N. refugee agency said.  

The latest wave of people are mostly fleeing from the southern state of Eastern Equatoria, with others coming from the capital Juba.