Photo taken on Oct. 16, 2016 shows South Sudan's government troops patrolling in Malakal town, South Sudan. Fresh clashes between government and opposition forces near the northern town of Malakal have killed at least 56 over the weekend, a military spokesman said late Sunday. (Xinhua/Gale Julius)
JUBA, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- As political and logistical constraints continue to delay the much-awaited deployment of the regional protection force (RPF), experts say that the force would help war-torn South Sudan regain lost confidence and credibility.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir's officials in the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) formed last April, have been sending mixed reactions on the RPF, since the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) issued resolution 2,304 in August last year, allowing deployment of more than 4,000 troops to beef up the existing 13,000 UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) force.
Minister of Information Michael Makuei told Xinhua that the December 15, 2016 deadline for the deployment of the African peacekeepers in the capital Juba had expired.
"We have proved beyond reasonable doubt that Juba and its surrounding environment is safe," Makuei said, adding that a new UN Security Council resolution is needed for the deployment to happen.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) wait to be airlifted to the South Sudanese Northern State of Eastern Nile, in Juba, capital of South Sudan, Jan. 7, 2017. (Xinhua/Gale Julius)
South Sudan in November accepted the deployment of the RPF after vehemently rejecting several requests by the UNSC.
However, Majak D'Agoot, former Deputy Defense Minister said the deployment of the RPF was still eminent given the fragile environment in the country and warning by UN of looming genocide.
"We were the first to call for the RPF. The political context of the deployment of the RPF was to prevent the escalation of the conflict and possible collapse of the (peace) agreement," he told Xinhua.
"Unfortunately, there was inaction and delay in deploying the force. This has changed the political context of deploying the RPF. Unless there is a clear political strategy that accompanies the deployment of this force, it might as well end up as a tool for consolidating Pax Salvatica," he noted.
Pax Salvatica is an acronym coined by critics to mean the political alliance between President Kiir and exiled rebel leader Riek Machar's former chief negotiator Taban Deng Gai who replaced the latter as first vice president, in the aftermath of violent renewed July clash in Juba last year.
"As initially envisaged, the RPF should generate multipliers for peace and stability in the country rather than being hijacked and used to undermine the restoration of peace in the country," Agoot added.
Meanwhile, Head of Political Science department at Juba University Jacob Dut Chol told Xinhua that the impediment to the arrival of the RPF was in the ongoing smooth working relations between Kiir and his deputy Deng.
Photo taken on Dec. 23, 2016 shows the United Nations Security Council voting on a draft resolution on South Sudan sanctions at the UN headquarters in New York. UN Security Council failed to adopt resolution on South Sudan sanctions on Friday. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
"Now the government and SPLA-in opposition (SPLA-IO) led by Deng are working in harmony, and if this continues then there may be no need for it (RPF)," he said.
"There is understanding among the two leaders. It is unlikely there will be another fight like what happened to Machar," Chol said.
He, however, added that there are some dissenting voices among South Sudanese, especially the political exiles, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in neighboring countries whose confidence and hope of returning to the country lay in the deployment of the RPF.
"However, there is need to have a certain number of RPF because there are people who think they will be secure with it in the country like the FDs, IDPs who would hope to return home," Chol observed.
Juba-based Ebony Center for Strategic Studies Analyst James Alic Garang, said that outright rejection of RPF may be seen as sign of bad faith on the side of TGoNU, and that the government ought to accept and cooperate with RPF to fulfill its envisioned objective.
He, however, conceded that the prevailing events in Juba might overshadow RPF deployment.
"So much has changed that as each day goes by, urgency of having RPF diminishes. If rebel activities were to subside, then TGoNU is justified to argue against (RPF) deployment because the role of RPF would be obsolete," he revealed.
The first batch of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers who had served in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, Nov. 9, 2016. The move comes after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenya's decision to withdraw from the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan was a protest against the violation of the dignity of Kenya's soldiers. About 900 more soldiers are expected back to the country. (Xinhua/Nyalwash)
"In the end, a balance has to be struck. TGoNU should not actively campaign against RPF, but the international community should also weigh its option if the situation on the ground has changed considerably," Garang told Xinhua.
Agoot added that the anxiety displayed by political class in Juba about RPF, was because they set the country on a dangerous course of ethnic warfare.
"They abhor monitoring and accountability. Because of the inaction of the international community, they are getting emboldened to call the bluff of the world which is a dangerous development," he said.
"Reasons for the (RPF) delay are reluctance of the Juba regime, geopolitics, logistics, etc. Yet, if the deployment was instant, South Sudan would achieve a certain level of stability by now," Garang added.