TROOPS BOOST

UN to dou­ble num­ber of peace­keep­ers in S. Su­dan

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ap­proved plans on Tues­day to al­most dou­ble the num­ber of peace­keep­ers in South Su­dan in an ef­fort to pro­tect civil­ians, as re­ports of mass graves fueled fears of a wors­en­ing of eth­nic blood­let­ting in the world’s new­est na­tion.

The move came as the United Na­tions hu­man­i­tar­ian co­or­di­na­tor in the coun­try said the death toll from the past 10 days of vi­o­lence was likely now in the thou­sands, rather than the hun­dreds the world body had pre­vi­ously es­ti­mated.

“I think it’s un­de­ni­able at this stage that there must have been thou­sands of peo­ple who have lost their lives,” Toby Lanzer told the BBC’s Newshour pro­gram. “When I’ve looked at the hos­pi­tals in key towns and I’ve looked at the hos­pi­tals in the cap­i­tal it­self, the range of in­juries, this is no longer a sit­u­a­tion where we can merely say it’s hun­dreds of peo­ple who’ve lost their lives,” he said.

Lanzer was speaking from a UN com­pound in the re­bel­held city of Ben­tiu, the cap­i­tal of Unity state in South Su­dan.

With some 45,000 civil­ians seek­ing pro­tec­tion at UN bases, the 15-mem­ber Se­cu­rity Coun­cil unan­i­mously au­tho­rized a plan by UN Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon to boost the strength of the peace­keep­ing force in South Su­dan to 12,500 troops and 1,323 po­lice.

The ad­di­tional per­son­nel will re­in­force UN bases where civil­ians are seek­ing shel­ter. How­ever, Ban warned that “even with ad­di­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties, we will not be able to pro­tect ev­ery civil­ian in need in South Su­dan”.

Vi­o­lence erupted in the cap­i­tal, Juba, on Dec 15 and quickly spread, di­vid­ing the land- locked coun­try of 10.8 mil­lion along eth­nic lines of Nuer and Dinka. South Su­dan se­ceded from Su­dan in 2011 un­der a peace agree­ment to end decades of war.

Western pow­ers and East African states, keen to pre­vent more chaos in a frag­ile re­gion, have tried to me­di­ate be­tween Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and rebel leader Riek Machar, a Nuer, who was vice-pres­i­dent un­til Kiir sacked him in July.

“What­ever the dif­fer­ences, noth­ing can jus­tify the vi­o­lence that has en­gulfed their young na­tion,” Ban said af­ter the vote. “There is no mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to this con­flict. This is a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis which re­quires a peace­ful, po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion.”

The fight­ing is af­fect­ing oil pro­duc­tion in South Su­dan, which ac­counts for 98 per­cent of govern­ment rev­enue. Pe­tro­leum Min­is­ter Stephen Dhieu Dau said out­put had fallen by 45,000 bar­rels per day to 200,000 bpd af­ter Unity state oil­fields were shut down.

US Marines close

Dau said pro­duc­tion in Up­per Nile state, where most of South Su­dan’s oil is extracted, is safe and out­side the reach of rebels.

The Pen­tagon said on Tues­day it had moved about 50 Marines to Uganda out of the roughly 150 it had sent this week to Dji­bouti to as­sist with any pos­si­ble fur­ther evac­u­a­tion of US cit­i­zens from South Su­dan. Uganda shares a bor­der with South Su­dan.

“This for­ward pos­tur­ing pro­vides ad­di­tional op­tions and the abil­ity to more quickly re­spond, if re­quired, to help pro­tect US per­son­nel and fa­cil­i­ties,” said Colonel Steve Warren, a Pen­tagon spokesman. Warren added that a re­fu­el­ing air­craft had also been moved to Uganda.

The de­ploy­ment of the spe­cial cri­sis- re­sponse team of Marines to Dji­bouti this week fol­lowed an aborted at­tempt to evac­u­ate US cit­i­zens from Bor over the week­end, in which four US sol­diers were wounded when their mil­i­tary air­craft were hit by ground fire.

US cit­i­zens and other for­eign­ers were evac­u­ated from the same area a day later, but it is un­clear how many US cit­i­zens and other for­eign­ers re­main in the coun­try.

JAMES AKENA / REUTERS

Newly ar­rived dis­placed fam­i­lies wait on Tues­day at Tomp­ing United Na­tions base near Juba in­ter­na­tional air­port in South Su­dan.

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