World’s newest and Africa’s 54th country, South Sudan, has announced its intention to contribute troops to the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Somalia that backs the weak interim government.
Deng Alor Kuol, South Sudan foreign affairs minister, said the new state was “prepared” to bolster the AU force to show its commitment to peace in Africa in comments to the BBC’s Focus on Africa program, on Monday.
“It is part of our responsibility to help our Somalia brothers and sisters to achieve peace,” Alor said. “We, as Africans, must be in the lead to alleviate problems before we ask the Western world or anyone else, to come to our help”, he added.
Offering troops to international peacekeeping missions can be a good way of earning foreign currency for some countries.
However, the leader of one of South Sudan’s opposition political party, the United Democratic Front (UDF), on Tuesday expressed his dissatisfaction with the proposal.
Some 3.7 million Somalis are at risk of starvation, the majority of them in the south of the country that has been in a state of armed anarchy for two decades, complicating any humanitarian relief effort. Around 100,000 Somalis who have fled to the capital Mogadishu from other parts of the country due to a severe drought are facing famine, and aid groups are struggling to provide emergency supplies.
But Peter Abdullah Raman Sule, the leader of UDF in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Tuesday said the new country should focus on addressing its internal security challenges before offering to send troops abroad.
“There is no doubt that South Sudan as a member of the international community should contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability of any country in the world, especially the African countries to which it belongs, but I think this is not yet time”, said Sule.
“South Sudan has a lot of challenges which I think should be addressed before reaching out with help” he added.
“If we go without having solved our own problems, what examples are we giving the world? How our intervention would be perceived if we have not addressed our own issues”, asked the opposition leader.
He argued that there is no logic in sending troops to Somalia at a time his country needs to maintain adequate security and stability to implement development projects in the country.
The AU has some 9,000 troops in Somalia mainly from Uganda and Burundi which is short of the proposed 20,000 soldiers.
South Sudan offers to Mediate between Ethiopia and Eritrea over Border Row
The newly independent Republic of South Sudan has called on Ethiopia and Eritrea to resume peace talks to end their long-standing border dispute.
Between 1998 and 2000 Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bitter war over the disputed border town of Badme, which killed at least 70,000 people. Fighting ended in 2000 when the two sides signed the Algiers peace agreement by which the dispute was referred for international arbitration.
But despite the UN founded Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission finding that Badme belonged to Eritrea, Ethiopia has refused to remove its troops from the area. Ethiopia often accuses Eritrea, which seceded from its larger neighbour in 1993, of attempts to destablise the region.
The offer of mediation is one of South Sudan’s first articulations of its foreign policy since it separated from Sudan on July 9 as part of a 2005 peace deal.
“I appeal to both leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the existing differences” South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir Mayardit said in a press statement on his two day official visit to neighbouring Ethiopia and the African Union (AU).
The South Sudanese leader whose country has cordial relations with both Ethiopia and Eritrea underscored the need to resume diplomatic efforts to bring both countries to the negotiating table.
Kiir pledged to bring the two sides together for talks to find out a peaceful settlement soon his country has established itself on a firmer footing.
“As soon as we have set our priorities in order and rolling, I will shuttle between Addis Ababa and Asmara until the two sisterly countries are brought back to normal relations”, he said noting the two countries contribution during South Sudan’s struggle for independence.
“I personally take this as a moral duty because it is disturbing to us seeing both countries bleeding again while both of them also paid the ultimate sacrifice in order for the people of South Sudan to be free today” Kiir added.
The Ethiopian government recently threatened that it would attempt to bring about regime change in Eritrea stirring fears of return to full scale war. Speaking to parliament in April, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that his government would not be forced to change its policy from “passive defiance” to directly help Eritrean people topple the regime.
Zenawi said Eritrea is sending terrorists and is supporting and training homegrown “destructive forces” in a plot to “turn Addis Ababa into Baghdad”.
Eritrea rejects the allegations. The two neighbours routinely trade tough rhetoric since the border war ended over a decade ago.