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Africa

UK troops to South Sudan raise fresh hopes of an end to conflict

media South Sudanese people living in the north of Sudan listen as South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar talks during a news conference in Khartoum, September 18, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Britain is to send up to 300 troops to South Sudan to try and bring the desperate security situation under control. Fighting continues to spread despite a peace deal being signed last month. The United Nations warns that the situation has gotten worse since the August agreement.

 

 

For Britain's Prime minister David Cameron, the purpose of military deployment is to curb illegal migration from countries like South Sudan to Britain.

That can only happen if there is stability, which is why the UK Premier has faced off opposition from Labour back benchers to push ahead with his plans.

Downing Street however insists that the 300 troops will not play a front-line role in South Sudan's conflict but would help with training and logistics support, it said on Monday ahead of a UN General Assembly summit.

In South Sudan, the news received a warm welcome.

"It can only help us," said Charles Rehan Surur, Managing Editor at Juba Post, who insists other countries should take a leaf out of the UK's book.

"It can only foster confidence between the government and rebels. If countries come to help us like this, it will foster peace. We want the international community to work with both sides, to talk with them and work with them."

What Surur forgets is that the two sides aren't working together at all. August's peace agreement is the eigth in a protracted conflict that is fast entering its second year. All peace deals thus far have been violated. The United Nations claims by both sides.

The UN says that the situation has actually gotten worse since the peace deal was signed, suggesting that talks may be doing more harm than good.

Paul Jacob Kumbo, Director of Information for South Sudan, has turned criticism back at the UN, arguing the organization is pursuing its own ulterior motives.

'The UN has its own agenda. They're supposed to be monitoring both sides, who are committing these violences. It is not the government, the government is there implementing the agreement."

Asked why there was still no lasting peace, Kumbo replied that the forces of vice president Riek Machar were the one's stirring up trouble.

For an idea of what that looks like, RFI spoke to the coordinator for the Humanitarian Council for Refugees in the country's capital Juba, Geoffrey Ladu. He says that people are living in fear.

"No one knows what to expect. UK troops can come to Juba and demilitarize the zone, but no one can predict the security situation."

Under the peace deal, the two sides have up to 90 days to disarm and form a transitional unity government. But few people are convinced.

Speaking from one of the country's refugee camps, Ladu told RFI that robberies were common place and resources few and far between. Two million people have been displaced by the conflict which erupted in 2013. What began as a spat between President Salva Kiir and his vice-president Riek Machar has now become a full-blown civil war, leaving more than 4 million people dependent on food aid.

"If Britain can send troops to South Sudan to help us, they will be more than welcome," Kumbo, the country's Director of Information told RFI. 

He, like many other  South Sudanese are hoping that a military solution will be more effective than stalled diplomacy.

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