Ghana will send 850 troops to South Sudan in order to help restore peace and stability and prevent the country from sliding into civil war, President John Dramani Mahama has announced.
Mahama on Tuesday said the deployment followed a request from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Ghana to help in keeping the peace and assist with humanitarian efforts, reports the Ghana News Agency. The National Security Council met on Monday to ratify the troop deployment.
“When I received the request from the UN Secretary-General, I did not hesitate to give my provisional approval,” he said. “Ghana will deploy as quickly as possible to secure the lines for humanitarian assistance to come through.
Mahama said a decision had been taken to mobilise the 330 Ghanaian soldiers currently deployed as part of peacekeeping duties in Cote d’Ivoire to South Sudan but on request from the UN for a fully-fledged battalion, 520 fresh troops and equipment were being mobilised to complement the 330 troops, reports the Ghana News Agency.
The UN has said it is working to get 5 500 extra UN peacekeepers sent to South Sudan to protect civilians. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said 300 000 civilians have been displaced by fighting that began in December, with 60 000 sheltering at UN compounds. Tens of thousands of civilians have meanwhile sought refuge in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. The UN has had to fire warning shots to keep fighting out of its compounds.
Ladsous said the deadline for the extra deployment was between four and eight weeks. The time-frame is longer than Ladsous outlined on December 30 when he said it was hoped all reinforcements for the UN peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) that the Council authorised to protect civilians – almost doubling the force to nearly 14 000, including utility and tactical helicopters – would be on the ground within three weeks.
South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011 after seceding from Sudan, erupted in fighting on December 15 when President Salva Kiir said soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, dismissed last July, reportedly launched an attempted coup.