Regional protection force soldiers soon in South Sudan: UN

Av Sam Mednick – Associated Press

The United Nations says peacekeepers with a long-awaited regional protection force soon will arrive in South Sudan nearly a year after they were approved.

The 4,000-strong force is meant to protect civilians from the gang rapes and other abuses seen during the fighting that erupted in the capital, Juba, a year ago. Its arrival has faced pushback from South Sudan’s government.

South Sudan’s civil war is well into its fourth year, with more than 50,000 people killed.

U.N. peacekeeping mission chief David Shearer says a deal has been reached on a base for the troops in Juba. He calls it a «significant positive step forward» and one that will give the U.N. the «flexibility to extend its presence into areas beyond Juba where peacekeepers may be needed.»

Rwandan soldiers are set to arrive Aug. 6, with Ethiopian troops coming in September and November. The small number already in place includes 150 Nepalese.

The signing of the base agreement between South Sudan’s government and the U.N. comes shortly before U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix visits the country. Lacroix is expected to meet with government officials and advocate for a country-wide cease-fire.