November 23, 2015 / 7:37 PM / 3 years ago

U.N. urges deployment of more peacekeepers to South Sudan

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - South Sudan is at risk of sinking into a cycle of revenge killings on a large scale, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he recommended an extra 1,100 peacekeepers be deployed to the world’s youngest nation.

U.N. peacekeepers patrol in Bentiu, Unity State, June 18, 2014. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu

In a Nov. 20 report to the U.N. Security Council on the world body’s peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, seen by Reuters on Monday, Ban questioned the commitment by the warring parties to a peace deal signed in August.

“Breaches of the ceasefire agreement and the failure of the parties to meet the initial deadlines articulated for the preparatory phase of the peace agreement’s implementation, call into question their commitment to the peace process,” Ban wrote.

He said deep divisions among communities in South Sudan, which gained its independence from Sudan in 2011, combined with the high levels of brutality throughout the violent conflict, “could lead to a pattern of revenge killings.”

“Retribution along these lines would likely become highly politicized, lead to large scale loss of life and contribute to a continuing cycle of violence,” Ban said. “There is a risk that organized forces of the parties could become involved.”

South Sudan descended into civil war in December 2013 when a row between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar ended with fighting that often ran along ethnic fault lines between Kiir’s Dinka and Machar’s Nuer people.

Thousands have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict.

Under pressure from its neighbors and a threat of U.N. sanctions, Machar signed a peace deal on Aug. 17 and Kiir followed suit 10 days later, although both sides were quick to accuse each other of further attacks.

Ban said both parties had engaged in “deliberate and targeted killing of civilians and extrajudicial and other unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture.”

“Civilians have been targeted based on ethnicity,” he said.

Some 12,500 U.N. peacekeepers are still sheltering nearly 180,000 people at six camps throughout South Sudan, but Ban said overcrowding and ethnic tensions had sparked nearly 3,000 incidents including killings, sexual violence and criminality.

He recommended the Security Council authorize the deployment of a further 500 troops and 600 police to improve security in the camps and allow peacekeepers to protect civilians elsewhere.

Ban also said surveillance drones should be deployed. However, Kiir has so far blocked drones.

The Security Council is due to renew the mission’s mandate by Dec. 15.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Richard Chang

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