UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council unanimously approved a new peacekeeping force for South Sudan yesterday, assuring the world’s newest nation military and police support to help maintain peace and security on the eve of its independence.
The council authorized the deployment of up to 7,000 military personnel and 900 international police, plus an unspecified number of UN civilian staff, including human rights specialists.
The council acted ahead of independence celebrations in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, today, when the mainly ethnic African south officially breaks away from the Arab-dominated north, whose capital is in Khartoum.
South Sudan’s independence is the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war, but there are fears the conflict could be reignited because troops from the north and south are facing off in the contested oil-rich border region of Abyei. Northern troops and forces loyal to the south are also fighting in Southern Kordofan, a state just over the border in the north.
“This is a strong signal of support to the new South Sudan,’’ Germany’s UN ambassador, Peter Wittig, the current council president, said after the vote.
He said the Security Council is expected to give South Sudan another vote of confidence Wednesday by recommending its membership in the United Nations. The General Assembly is expected to approve South Sudan as the United Nation’s 193d member state the following day.
The resolution establishes a new UN mission in the Republic of South Sudan today for an initial period of one year.