East African nations have approved a 5,500-strong military force for war-torn South Sudan to end weeks of bitter fighting that has devastated the young nation, Kenya’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
Thousands have been killed and half a million civilians forced to flee the fighting between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels allied to his sacked deputy Riek Machar.
“The Security Council within IGAD has already adopted a resolution allowing 5,500 troops into South Sudan,” Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told reporters, referring to the seven-member Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
IGAD is mediating deadlocked talks in Ethiopia between the warring parties, to end a conflict in which the United Nations says atrocities have been committed, including mass killings, sexual violence and widespread destruction.
Uganda, an IGAD-member, has already sent troops to South Sudan on its own and taken a key role in the fighting in support of Mr Kiir.
Rebel chief Riek Machar has demanded Kampala withdraw all forces, claiming Ugandan fighter jets have tried to kill him, and has questioned the neutrality of IGAD as a mediator.
It was not clear what role an IGAD force would play or if Ugandan troops would be part of it but a draft cessation of hostilities deal proposes an IGAD-led team to monitor the proposed deal on the ground.
Ms Mohamed yesterday told reporters that Kenya had been approached to help boost the more than 5,500 soldiers needed to guard peace in the neighbouring country. The UN Security Council passed a resolution in December last year to boost the presence of peace keepers several days after the country descended into chaos.