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RPF is a wrong focus, says Prendergast

The regional protection force, to be deployed in Juba soon, will have no impact on civilians in need of protection says John Prendergast, the founding director of the Enough Project which campaigns against genocide and crimes against humanity.

John Prendergast says the deployment is a wrong focus in restoring peace in South Sudan.

In an article circulated to the news media in the United States, Mr. Prenderghast criticized the approach of the international community to resolving the conflict in South Sudan.

He said the regional protection force in particular, is a “wrong focus”.

“What little action is occurring now is focused on getting a rapid deployment force sent to Juba to protect civilian populations. This is a classic case of fighting the last war,” he said.

The UN Security Council approved the force of 4,000 personnel last year, after the outbreak of violence in Juba.

The RPF is mandated to use all means to protect civilians, deter any armed group preparing an attack, protect key installations such as the Juba airport, and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Fourteen top commanders of the force are already in Juba, but the rest are yet to deploy.

Mr. Prendergast says risks against civilians in Juba have considerably diminished since the approval of the force and the areas of concern have changed dramatically.

“Indeed, at one point in the conflict, civilians in the capital city were at risk, but the risk has diminished considerably; the theater of concern has moved dramatically since then,” he added. “Nevertheless, the internationals continue to expend needless energy and diplomatic capital on cobbling together a force that will have no impact on the civilian populations most in need of protection.”

Other approaches he criticized include the division within the UN Security Council, threats of sanctions without effective implementation, and the mediation strategy which he says narrowly considers one armed group.

“The international actors engaged in South Sudan diplomacy should start doing the opposite of nearly everything they are doing now. The country is in dire need of a peace strategy that involves two fundamentally important ingredients for peace to have a chance,” Mr. Prendergast said.

“Everyone agrees the conflict is not ‘ripe for resolution’ currently, so measures should be introduced to help ripen it,” he added, explaining that such measures should include a network of sanctions and a new mediation strategy initiated.

“A new mediation effort needs to be designed and initiated as key officials begin to feel the pressures recommended above,” he said in the op-ed. “This effort should include the government, the main armed opposition factions, key political parties, and civil society actors. An inclusive peace is the only peace that could ever be sustainable.”

By Eye Radio

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