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South Sudan Rejects Regional Troop Deployment by UN

FILE - A U.N. armored personnel vehicle stops in a refugee camp in Juba South Sudan, July 25, 2016.

The South Sudan government says it rejects a draft resolution being circulated at the U.N. Security Council, calling for deployment of a regional protection force to Juba and other parts of the country wracked by violence.

The Juba government's information minister, Michael Makuei, said such a force would be unacceptable if it is supervised by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and that it would undermine South Sudan's sovereignty.

The United States has sponsored the draft resolution now being discussed at the Security Council in New York. Heads of state of the regional trade bloc IGAD, or Intergovernmental Authority on Development, have been meeting in Addis Ababa to discuss the proposed regional protection force.

In New York last week, the U.N. Security Council extended the mandate of the UNMISS force, which had been about to expire, until this Friday. IGAD heads of state and their partners are discussing modifying that mandate.

Among the topics under discussion is whether UNMISS should be empowered to prevent the direct or indirect supply or sale of arms and aircraft to either the government or the opposition forces fighting under the name of the SPLA (the Sudan People's Liberation Army), the former military wing of the political party of the same name.

FILE - A United Nations peacekeeper stands with displaced children on a wall around the United Nations base in the capital Juba, South Sudan, Jan. 19, 2016.
FILE - A United Nations peacekeeper stands with displaced children on a wall around the United Nations base in the capital Juba, South Sudan, Jan. 19, 2016.

Government spokesman Michael Makuei said broadening the powers of the UNMISS force would be unacceptable to South Sudan.

The U.S.-backed effort to extend and expand the UNMISS force's authority "seriously undermines the sovereignty of the Republic of South Sudan as a U.N. member state," Makuei said, "and the Transitional Government of National Unity strongly objects. The text is very clear, and it's turning South Sudan into a [U.N.] protectorate, and this is a situation that we will not accept."

South Sudanese authorities also oppose deploying a protection force under UNMISS authority. Makuei said the government is concerned that might result in the use of armed unmanned aircraft, or drones, by UNMISS and related forces.

"This is not the object for which we wanted the protection force," the spokesman said, "and as such the protection force should have been an independent body, not under UNMISS."

Makuei said the IGAD partners' talks in Ethiopia's capital have taken place without the participation of South Sudan's chief of staff, contravening what he described as an earlier IGAD communique on the proposed protection force.

"What was discussed inside the hall is not what came in. Those which we have criticized are not the ones which came in the discussion when the heads of states and the government were sitting," Makuei said. "If these issues remain as they are, we have every right as a member state to reject the communiqué and distance ourselves from that communiqué."

Makuei also rejected another point reportedly included in the tentative resolution before the Security Council: control over Juba International Airport. The spokesman said the Juba government will never cede its authority over the airport to outside forces.

"What's happening, what is being planned now against the people and the government of South Sudan, is not the end of the government. It's not the end of the game," Makuei said. "...I call upon the African leaders to take care and be vigilant; otherwise, this is a new colonialism."

Makuei said the UNMISS Tongpiny site, which is near Juba's airport, might be considered part of an expanded area under the protection of the U.N. mission.