28 December 2013

South Sudan: Peacekeeping Reinforcements Arrive in South Sudan Amid Ceasefire Doubts

Dozens of police officers have arrived in South Sudan as part of plans to beef up a UN peacekeeping mission there. Meanwhile, doubts have been raised about prospects for a ceasefire following political talks in Kenya.

Seventy-two Bangladeshi police officers arrived in South Sudan's capital, Juba on Friday, the United Nations said.

Kieran Dwyer, a UN peacekeeping spokesman said the additional police officers "will play a key role maintaining order and security" at UN compounds in South Sudan, where an estimated 63,000 people have sought refuge since fighting broke out in mid-December.

The Bangladeshis were redeployed from a UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo and are the first of a total of 440 extra police officers along with 5,500 additional peacekeepers, whose deployment was approved by the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

More troops and equipment were expected to arrive in over the next few hours.

Ceasefire offer

They arrived in South Sudan just hours after East African leaders meeting in Nairobi had announced that President Salva Kiir had agreed to end hostilities with the rebels. The government said it had agreed at the meeting not to go ahead with a planned offensive to recapture Bentiu, the capital of oil-producing Unity state.

"We are not moving on Bentiu as long as the rebel forces abide by the ceasefire," the Associated Press quoted South Sudan's interior minister, Michael Makuei Lueth as saying.

However, there was no immediate indication that the rebels, led by deposed former Vice President Riek Machar had any indication of observing a ceasefire, announced at talks at which they were not represented.

UN officials in the country also warned that their was little indication that either side was preparing to halt hostilities.

Situation 'tense'

A statement released by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Friday said "that the security situation in Upper Nile and Unity states is tense, with reports of the presence of anti-government and government forces."

A separate statement, released by the UN's Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) described the situation in Bentiu as "tense," adding that "there are reports that fighting may resume in the coming days."

The fighting broke out on December 15 after President Kiir of the Dinka ethnic group, accused Machar an ethnic Nuer who was sacked as vice president back in July, of attempting to depose him in a coup.

Since then, more than 1,000 people are believed to have been killed and 120,000 othersi displaced.

pfd/av (AP, AFP, dpa)

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