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AU Backs Call for 'Robust' African Force in South Sudan

  • Nick Long

Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers ride on their armored personnel carrier (APC) enroute to evacuate their citizens following recent fighting in Juba at Nimule town along the South Sudan and Uganda border, July 14, 2016.

Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers ride on their armored personnel carrier (APC) enroute to evacuate their citizens following recent fighting in Juba at Nimule town along the South Sudan and Uganda border, July 14, 2016.

The African Union has backed a request for African troops with a robust mandate to reinforce U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan. The AU summit meeting in Rwanda's capital approved the request, which will go the U.N. Security Council. The African heads of state were responding to a communiqué on South Sudan put out after a meeting with regional leaders and the United Nations on Saturday.

The communiqué issued by IGAD Plus, a body representing East African countries plus Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria, called on the U.N. Security Council to extend the U.N. mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, with a revised mandate.

That revised mandate, it specified, should include the deployment of a regional protection force to separate South Sudan's warring parties.

AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui confirmed the AU support for the IGAD plus request.

"There is the idea of promoting deployment of an African force within the U.N. All the questions have been accepted by the summit itself. So you will find them in the decision which will be made public," said Chergui.

Chergui told journalists the AU envisions sending an African force with a robust "peace enforcement" mandate to South Sudan, like the African intervention brigade in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

There is no time frame as yet for deployment, as that will depend on U.N. support for the proposal.

FILE - Black smoke rises above Juba, South Sudan, July 10, 2016.

FILE - Black smoke rises above Juba, South Sudan, July 10, 2016.

Chergui suggested U.N. peacekeeping missions in general need forces with tougher mandates.

"I think we now see the necessity of revisiting the mandates of most of the U.N. missions in Africa. You see north Mali is the same because the U.N. does not have a mandate to impose peace. They are there when there is a peace to keep. And that's the added value of African troops in Africa. They are ready to engage in very difficult situations," said Chergui.

Chergui acknowledged the government of South Sudan has said it does not want more foreign troops in the country. He said this issue would need to be negotiated.

The AU summit, which closed Monday, also discussed peace and security in Burundi, Libya and Somalia, and the threat of terrorism, all in some detail.

A decision was taken to set up a counter-terrorism fund to which African countries would make voluntary contributions.
Earlier, the question of the next AU Commission chairperson was put off for the time being, after no candidate received the required two-thirds majority in two rounds of voting.

As for the question of Morocco’s possible readmission to the AU, Chergui said nothing had been said about this officially at the summit.

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