The US has recommended that the United Nations Security Council authorise a protection force comprising 4,000 soldiers in South Sudan's capital Juba to ensure peace and security in the region. Hundreds of people have lost their lives in clashes in July between loyalists of the country's President Salva Kiir and supporters of ousted vice president Riek Machar, with fears rising about the onset of a full-blown civil war.
A draft resolution circulated by the US during the Security Council meeting on Sunday (8 August) also proposed imposing an arms embargo on the country if the transitional South Sudan government denies cooperation. The country has, however, recently agreed to deploy an Africa-led regional peace force.
The protection force proposed by the US would reportedly be part of the existing UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, called UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The mission had come into force since the country gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Washington has urged member states in the region "to expedite contributions of rapidly deployable troops to ensure the full deployment of the Regional Protection Force as soon as possible."
The current UN mission mandate expires on 12 August and thus, the Security Council will have to adopt the new draft before the expiry of the existing mandate. The draft resolution proposed that the mandate for the mission be extended until 15 December.
According to the draft resolution, seen by Reuters, the US has proposed that the chief of the protection force report to the UN mission commander. The regional protection force will "use all necessary means, including undertaking robust and active steps and engaging in direct operations where necessary" to protect the airport and other key facilities in Juba, the draft text stated.
If within a month of adoption of the draft resolution, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reports that the country's transitional government is not cooperating in the deployment of the protection force, the Security Council will then vote to impose an arms embargo.
The council has been threatening South Sudan with an arms embargo for more than a year now, but members Russia and China were reportedly opposed to the idea. However, it has now emerged that along with the US, the two nations have also given their nod on the issue.
Earlier on Sunday, the UN chief welcomed the South Sudanese administration's decision to deploy a regional protection force in the country. The secretary general's spokesperson said in a statement that the chief is concerned about the rising clashes in the country that had sparked off in 2013 between the two political leaders.
"He is outraged by the continued reports of serious human rights violations and abuses, including widespread sexual violence against women and young girls, committed by armed men in uniform," the statement read. The spokesperson added that the UN chief has called on all parties to uphold their responsibility to protect civilians and demanded that they take immediate steps to hold accountable those responsible for these "despicable" crimes.