“We are tough on behalf of the people of South Sudan,” Ambassador Mary Catherine Phee told The Niles.
She said her government will work with the government of President Salva Kiir to end the fighting and promote development. “We want to support the people of South Sudan in their desire to see an end to the conflict.”
“It is regrettable that after fighting for so many years against the north and achieving this incredible independent country that it has fallen into internal conflict,” Ambassador Phee said.
The United States helped draft the new UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) mandate, providing an extra 4,000 peacekeepers to push for an end to the conflict.
Last month violence broke out in several parts of South Sudan, killing hundreds and sparking fears about the outlook for the peace deal signed more than a year ago to end a bloody civil war.
The U.N. Security Council authorised the deployment of an additional 4,000 troops to South Sudan on August 12. The U.S. backed the drafted resolution and has threatened an arms embargo on South Sudan if it does not accept the deployment.
Last week, the South Sudan’s Information Minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, accused the U.S. government and the new UNMISS mandate of undermining South Sudan’s sovereignty.
Ambassador Molly Phee rejected the claim, stressing that the U.S. is working hard to support South Sudan achieve everlasting peace.
Ambassador Phee was very cautious in the light of ongoing fighting, but said her government wanted to play a role in restoring South Sudan’s security and finding solutions to the economic collapse of the country.
Ambassador Phee said the new mandate followed awareness that UNMISS peacekeepers in the country find it challenging to protect civilians.
“There are restrictions and operation constraints imposed by the government on the UNMISS operation,” the Ambassador said. “It will be important for the government to allow UNMISS to move by road and by air to carry out its mandate.”
Since the conflict erupted in December 2013, millions of South Sudanese have fled their homes and now an estimated half of the population face food shortages as rampant inflation and insecurity continue.
The United Nations says more than 60,000 South Sudanese crossed the border into Uganda following last month’s fighting in the capital Juba, which killed over 300 people.
The additional peacekeepers are yet to be sent to Juba but will be authorised to use all necessary means, including undertaking “robust action where necessary”, to enforce their mandate.
The new force, to be made up of troops from other African countries, will bring the total U.N. peacekeeping force in South Sudan to about 17,000, which will be the largest in the world.
But the government is yet to decide on the deployment of the African Union backed peacekeepers. Assistance “should not turn into an imposition that becomes and intervention”, said President Salva Kiir. He made the remarks at the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) inauguration on August 15, 2016.