An advance team of the regional protection force arrived in Juba over the weekend.
The U.N. Mission in South Sudan — or UNMISS — says a team of engineers is in the country to prepare for the deployment of the 4,000-strong force in the capital with a mandate to protect civilians. The government says it will accept regional troops from neighboring countries to be part of the U.N. peacekeeping force in South Sudan.
The regional protection force (RPF) was established in 2016 by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2304.
UNMISS released a statement over the weekend saying “the RPF Headquarters has been established in Juba under the leadership of Brigadier General Jean Mupenzi from Rwanda.”
The statement also said an advance party of a Construction Engineering Company from Bangladesh arrived on April 20, bringing essential equipment to begin preparing offices for the RPF in Juba. Regional troops from Rwanda are expected to follow in June and July.
UNMISS said the RPF will provide “coordinated protection to key facilities in Juba,” and protection to the main routes into and out of the city. The force will also strengthen the security of U.N. protection of civilians’ sites and other U.N. premises, according to the statement.
South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei said the Kiir administration objects to the presence of any non-African forces as part of the regional protection force and only gave permission for the Bangladeshi forces to enter the country because of their technical expertise.
“We raised concerns that these forces are not part of the region and we saw no reason they should come,” Makuei said. But when the administration learned “these are technical people whose abilities are not available in the region,” the government relented.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan operates under Chapter VII of the United Nations. Under it, the Security Council determines “the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken to restore international peace and security.”
Makuei said his government will not accept combat troops who are not from the region.
“It’s only the technical part that will be handled by non-regional forces. But the rest of the forces are supposed to come in as Africans, not only Africans but from the region,” Makuei said.
UNMISS said the deployment of the regional protection forces will free up existing UNMISS peacekeepers to extend their presence to conflict-affected areas beyond Juba.