Aid agencies call on U.N. to boost troops for Sudan

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A number of aid agencies called on the United Nations yesterday to increase the number of troops to be deployed to South Sudan after it secedes from the north on Saturday.

Ahead of the official separation of poor, conflict-ravaged but oil-producing South Sudan, the U.N. Security Council is expected to approve the deployment of up to 7,000 U.N. peacekeepers in the south.
“The increasing violence and human rights violations this year underscore the need for a robust and flexible peacekeeping presence in South Sudan,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch in a press release issued by a variety of aid organizations.

A spokesman for Oxfam said it was concerned that “some Security Council members want to limit the number of peacekeepers to less than 7,000.”
“South Sudan is the size of Texas and has little capacity to protect its own population despite its commitment to do so,” the Oxfam spokesman said.

However, several countries are challenging the U.N. Secretariat to produce evidence that as many as 7,000 troops are still needed, said a Western diplomat.

Some of the tasks originally envisaged, such as border monitoring, are now expected to be done by UNISFA instead, that diplomat said. UNIFSA, the U.N. Interim Security Force in Abyei, is a peacekeeping force of 4,200 Ethiopian troops deployed to the disputed Abyei region for a six-month period.

The U.N. mission for south Sudan, tentatively called UNMISS, will be the fourth separate blue-helmeted force in Sudan, the others being in Dafur, Abyei and a mission called UNMIS that monitors compliance with the 2005 north-south peace deal that ended decades of civil war.

The north wants UNMIS out by July 9, though Security Council diplomats say the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China have tried to pressure Khartoum to allow UNMIS to remain for three months after the south secedes in line with the results of a January independence referendum.

Khartoum has made clear it is against a continuing UN peacekeeping presence, the diplomat who spoke to Reuters said. There may be a “liquidation” resolution put to the Security Council to vote on, to wind down the UNMIS mandate, that person said. This wind-down could take a few months.

A vote by the Security Council to create the UNMISS peacekeeping force for South Sudan is likely to take place in coming days, most likely Friday, the diplomat said.

Separately, the White House announced that U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice will lead a delegation to South Sudan to attend the ceremony on July 9 to celebrate its secession.