United States Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday he and regional states were committed to giving momentum to the planned deployment of extra United Nations troops to South Sudan and said the country’s leaders needed to recommit to a peace deal.
Fierce fighting in the capital Juba last month has raised fears that the five-year-old nation could slide back into civil war. It prompted the United Nations to authorise the deployment of 4,000 additional U.N. troops to bolster a U.N. mission there, Reuters reported.
“We need to move forward with the deployment of a regional protection force,” Kerry told a news conference in Nairobi after talks with foreign ministers from Kenya and other African states that had focused on South Sudan and Somalia’s reconstruction.
Kerry said regional states, which have pushed for sending the new troops to help South Sudan’s 12,000-strong U.N. mission UNMISS, had agreed on “the immediate implementation process” of meetings and steps to “guarantee some momentum builds up.”
About two years of conflict that pitted troops loyal to President Salva Kiir against those of his former deputy Riek Machar was supposed to have ended with a peace deal last year. But fighting persisted and flared again last month in Juba.
After the latest violence, Machar, who had returned to the capital in April to resume his post as vice president, withdrew again to the bush and was picked up this month by U.N. peacekeepers in Democratic Republic of Congo with a leg injury.
Kiir has again sacked him and appointed a new vice president.
Kerry said it was up to South Sudan’s leaders, political parties and neighbours to work out “what is best or not best with respect to Machar,” but all sides had to stop fighting.