Print options

December 24, 2013

UN to Vote on Bolstering South Sudan Peacekeeping Force

by VOA News

The United States says all members of the U.N. Security Council support a proposal to send 5,500 peacekeepers to South Sudan in order to protect civilians from worsening violence.

The Security Council is due to vote Tuesday afternoon on a resolution to transfer troops from other U.N. missions in Africa, following the proposal from U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said late Monday that South Sudan is "in jeopardy" and that its leaders can either choose to engage in dialogue or tear the nation apart.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir said Monday in a meeting with U.S. special envoy for South Sudan Donald Booth that he is willing to hold talks with his former vice president Riek Machar without preconditions.

The country's Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told VOA English to Africa that Kiir stressed in remarks to parliament that he will never again take South Sudan to war and that talks are the way to end the violence.

“President Salva Kiir, being an elected president democratically, is responsible for the lives of the people of South Sudan, including the foreigners in this country, so it is his absolute constitutional right and mandate to see that peace is achieved," said Benjamin.  "And I hope Dr. Riek Machar should also be able to see the same, that the people of this country suffered so much and cannot be losing their lives because of a power struggle.”

Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, blames Machar, an ethic Nuer, for what he says was an attempted military coup that triggered the violence on December 16.  Hundreds of people have died in the fighting.

Machar told Reuters on Monday that he will take part in dialogue immediately if Mr. Kiir releases detained opposition leaders.

The United Nations says the violence has forced 100,000 people from their homes, and that 45,000 people have sought shelter at U.N. bases in South Sudan.

Journalist Hannah McNeish, who is in the capital, Juba, says   the fighting has a clear ethnic element, with members of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups targeting each other.

"There are people going house to house, tracking people down in term of ethnicity.  They are taking them out of their houses, they are binding their hands, and executing them if they are not the right ethnicity.  This is completely out of control," said McNeish.