AFRICANGLOBE – An East African regional heads of states and governments summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Thursday authorised the prompt deployment of a Protection and Deterrent Force (PDF) from the region to help restore peace and stability in South Sudan.
According to a a communiqué issued during the 25th extraordinary session of the regional bloc (IGAD), the PDF would operate with a clear mandate and operational guidelines as part of the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM) in the country.
Regional leaders, however, called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the African Union (AU) to provide the necessary support, calling on the parties to ensure the progressive withdrawal of all armed groups, including allied forces, as per the ceasefire agreement signed on 23 January.
The communiqué calls on IGAD partners “to redouble their efforts” to support the monitoring mechanism and the deployment of the protection force.
The meeting was chaired Ethiopia’s prime minister, Hailemariam Dessalegn. Also in attendance was South Sudan’ president Salva Kiir and his counterparts from Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia, as well as the AU Commission chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
The summit also lauded Uganda’s efforts in securing vital installations in South Sudan following the outbreak of violence in the country, while expressing appreciation for the wide-ranging support extended to the IGAD-led mediation process from member states, development partners and the wider international community.
Uganda deployed a contingent of its army in South Sudan to provide military support to government troops, , but has since been under intense pressure from opposition forces to pull out of the new nation.
Both the United States and the UNSC have condemned the intervention of foreign forces in South Sudan, saying it contravenes the 23 January ceasefire deal.
AU Inquiry Welcomed
Meanwhile, regional leaders at Thursday’s summit have welcomed the AU’s establishment of a Commission of Inquiry headed by former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo to investigate alleged human rights violations and other crimes committed during the violence in South Sudan.
Leaders said the formation of the five-member body marks the beginning of a genuine process of accountability, reconciliation, and healing in South Sudan in line with the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) communiqué of 30th December 2013 in Banjul, Gambia.
The IGAD summit also urged the parties to cooperate with the AU to expeditiously operationalise the inquiry, while calling on the international community to fully support the AU-led initiative.
The summit comes ahead of the resumption of peace talks by South Sudan’s rival parties, scheduled for 20 March.
On January 20, 2014 the President of South Sudan accused the United Nations of secretly trying to takeover his country. South Sudan’s military on March 4, 2014 intercepted a eight UN trucks loaded with weapons and heading towards rebel held territory. The UN has since denied the allegations, claiming that the weapons were for recently arrived peacekeepers and that its vehicles simply took the wrong route. However UN forces are not authorized to transport weapons via vehicles in South Sudan.