Displaced civilians and religious leaders in war-torn South Sudan have appealed to the U.N. Security Council to urgently deploy extra foreign troops as government ministers questioned whether more peacekeepers were needed in the capital, Juba.
The 15-member council met with President Salva Kiir’s cabinet, religious and civil society leaders and visited two U.N. compounds in Juba where tens of thousands of civilians have been sheltering amid nearly three years of violence.
While the country’s conflict was sparked in December 2013 by political rivalry between Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar, Anglican Archbishop Daniel Deng warned that people have been made to believe it’s a tribal war.
“What happened in Rwanda, we’re afraid it can happen in this country,” he told the Security Council, referring to the Hutu genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.
Catholic Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro described the planned deployment of a 4,000-strong regional protection force to ensure peace in Juba, authorized by the Security Council last month, as a reconciliation force.
“We need this help,” he said. “We cannot put our nation on the right track alone.”
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but slid into civil war after Kiir sacked Machar as his vice president. The conflict between forces loyal to Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and Machar, a Nuer, has often followed ethnic lines.
The pair signed a peace deal a year ago but fighting has continued and Machar has now fled to neighboring Sudan.