UN Security Council officials on Sunday began a key meeting with the president of South Sudan to get him to accept the deployment of a regional protection force to beef up a large UN peacekeeping mission.
The meeting began late afternoon in the presidential palace in the capital Juba, where clashes between President Salva Kiir’s guards and troops loyal to his former deputy Riek Machar erupted on July 8, shattering a fragile truce that has been breached several times.
Kiir showed the ambassadors from the council’s 15 member states bullet marks in the heart of the building as well as shattered window panes. He said Machar had wanted to assassinate him that day but that he managed to flee.
Following the violence, the UN Security Council authorised the deployment of an additional 4,000 troops from East Africa with a stronger mandate than the 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission UNMISS.
The UN officials arrived on Friday in a bid to secure Kiir’s agreement to the extra troops.
UNMISS has faced considerable criticism over its failure to protect civilians during the July violence, which included the rape of civilians sheltered in its camps.
Kiir had opposed the deployment of additional troops, initially touted as an “intervention force”, as breaching national sovereignty.
South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, descended into war in December 2013 after Kiir accused his former deputy Machar of plotting a coup.
During the fighting in July, Machar, who had been persuaded to return to Juba to join a national unity government agreed under a peace deal, fled the country and is now in Khartoum, having been replaced by Taban Deng Gai in Juba.
Aside from the tens of thousands of people killed, the United Nations has reported shocking levels of brutality including gang-rapes and the wholesale burning of villages.
An estimated 16,000 children have been recruited by armed groups and the national army in the conflict, and 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes.