The African Union (AU) has backed plans to deploy regional troops to Juba after the recent violent clashes that left hundreds dead in the South Sudanese capital. Soldiers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda are expected to be deployed to South Sudan soon. The AU force will have a stronger mandate than the current 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force and it is hoped the intervention will prevent further outbreaks of violence between warring factions.
Speaking at the AU summit in Kigali earlier this month, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the outgoing chairperson of the African Union Commission said the African regional bloc will not look on as people are killed.
“We have not been indifferent and shall act in the belief that when the power of love for our fellow Africans overcomes our love of power, there shall be peace in our names,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir meanwhile has said he will not allow any extra soldiers in South Sudan, arguing that the current 12,000 foreign troops stationed in the country are enough.
#SouthSudan | #Juba – President Salva Kiir rejects IGAD’s proposal for an intervention force within the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. (Video: theniles.org | Samir Bol)Posted by theniles.org on Thursday, 14 July 2016
Hundreds of people have been killed in recent clashes between forces loyal to President Kiir and forces loyal to his deputy, Machar. More than a million have been displaced because of the clashes between the bitter rivals. Thousands of others have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. UN and humanitarian agencies have warned of a looming famine while the economy is on its knees.
Hundreds of people took to the streets of Juba to protest against the decision to deploy African Union troops in the city, yet South Sudanese citizens have expressed mixed opinions about foreign peacekeepers in their capital.
#SouthSudan | #Juba – The government opposes the deployment of an AU intervention force. In Juba, hundreds of protestors...Posted by theniles.org on Wednesday, 20 July 2016
“The government has failed”
“The truth is I think for now it is a good idea. Maybe it can help bring normality to the country,” one South Sudanese activist told The Niles. “The intervention will work as a referee and help protect the civil population,” says another activist.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, he says it is important for the government to accept its failures. “The government is rejecting AU forces but has forgotten that it has failed in its primary role of protecting the population.”
The man says he has witnessed personal horror in the recent deadly clashes in the capital, which left hundreds dead and many more displaced: his daughter’s friend was sexually abused by armed men.
“She was picked from home and raped”
“She was picked from home and raped. My friend’s car was taken the other day,” says the activist. “The civil population cannot speak because of fear. At least if we have a referee or a third force, the two sides will fear to engage in war.”
Exasperated by the mindless violence and the looting of markets, shops and homes by armed soldiers, the Juba-based activist says an international peacekeeping force seems a good option as “the home grown solution does not seem to be forthcoming.” Juba has been looted and ransacked for nearly a week.
“I support the (intervention) 100 percent,” says One James, a young Juba resident, adding that both President Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar have had an opportunity to solve things internally but have failed. James emphasises that South Sudan was born with the help of the international community and the AU in particular.
“The post independence era started very well with the rest of the world standing behind the newest nation,” recalls James. “But the events of 2013 prevented the country’s journey of recovery after 21 years of senseless war.” He hopes the intervention will force domestic leaders to focus on reconciliation.
Another Juba resident however argues that the presence of foreign troops will not necessarily prevent further clashes, but rather will merely strengthen the factions who called for an AU intervention.
On behalf of the government, Presidential Advisor Nhial Deng Nhial, also rejects the proposed intervention force.
#SouthSudan | #Juba – “We’ve been let down by IGAD,” says Pres. Advisor Nhial Deng Nhial, and explains why the South Sudan government rejects the proposed intervention force. (Video: theniles.org | Samir Bol)Posted by theniles.org on Wednesday, 20 July 2016
“The deployment of the third force will not really help in restoring peace and may even cause more violence because it will make one party which calls for the deployment of the AU to be more notorious,” David Manyang told the Niles. Manyang believes the foreign troops may be unable to prevent further outbreaks of fighting in the city. “If they fight, whom will the AU force shoot at?” he asks.
International stakeholders seem to agree that a neutral intervention force is in the country’s best interests.
“The AU will help protect civilians”
“Both the government and the opposition have failed to protect civilians in the country. The AU will help protect civilians so that they can go out and work and this will help reduce the current economic crisis in the country,” says Abila Reuben, the Executive Director for Voice of Change, a Juba-based human rights organisation.
Despite the protestations of President Kiir, local and international legal experts agree on the legal mandate for the latest intervention.
“Intervention can occur in two ways,” says Beny Gideon Mabor, a member of the South Sudan Law Society. “It can either be requested by the political leadership of a certain nation or the international community can intervene on its motion under humanitarian purposes in an intractable conflicts that are often euphemistically called complex emergencies like what is going now in South Sudan”, says Mabor, adding that South Sudan has ratified the AU and UN charters, which entrench the Right to Protect (R2P).
“As a matter of international law, humanitarian intervention—such as the use of military force to protect foreign populations from mass atrocities or gross human rights abuses—is permissible if authorised by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC),” wrote Matthew Waxman in the Council for Foreign Relations in 2013.
“In recent years, states have reached general consensus that they have a ‘Responsibility to Protect’ populations from mass atrocities, and that when a government fails in this responsibility towards its own people, international action is appropriate.”