Finally, after months of delay, the first contingent of the long-awaited Regional Protection Force has arrived in South Sudan.
The U.N. mission there – UNMISS – says at least 13 peacekeepers have reached the capital of Juba, where the force’s headquarters has been established under the leadership of Brigadier General Jean Mupenzi of Rwanda.
Joining them are members of a construction engineering company from Bangladesh, who arrived on April 20 to bring equipment to help build living and working areas for the rest of the force, due to arrive over the course of the year.
This is the first wave of that four-thousand-strong deployment. Later arrivals will include troops from Rwanda, scheduled to arrive in June and July, as well as troops from other U.N. member states including Nepal and Pakistan.
The regional protection force will bolster the mission in South Sudan, and their tasks include protecting key facilities in Juba and the main roads leading into and out of the city. They will reinforce security at U.N. premises and civilian protection sites, and free up existing peacekeepers to deal with conflict areas beyond Juba, according to UNMISS.
That mission, which has more than 12-thousand peacekeepers, is one of the U.N.’s largest deployments, but they have long struggled to protect civilians.
In response to escalating and deadly clashes in 2016, the Security Council last August authorized the additional deployment and also expanded the mission’s mandate to cover a wider area of conflict.
Even though the South Sudan government earlier agreed to accept the troops, they later blocked the deployment over concerns that it would violate the country’s sovereignty, insisting that the additional troops were unnecessary.