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UN Approves Bigger Peacekeeping Force To South Sudan


The United Nations is planning to send 4,000 more peacekeeping troops to South Sudan after continued violence in the capital city of Juba - this despite the South Sudanese government's objection to the proposal, which was authored by the United States. South Sudan only became a country six years ago and, for three of those years, has been embroiled in a civil war. Twelve thousand U.N. troops are already there. We're joined by Nichola Mandil. He is an editor with the Eye Radio in Juba, and he joins us on Skype. Mr. Mandil, thanks for being with us.

NICHOLA MANDIL: You're welcome, sir.

SIMON: How bad is the violence?

MANDIL: Well, anybody living in Juba lives in fear, including myself. As a journalist, when I move around Juba, I don't feel safe because of rumors circulating that, any time, Juba can be attacked - any time, anything can happen. That is how the violence is. But the report we have been getting, according to government's estimate, is that more than 300 people killed.

SIMON: Mr. Mandil, I apologize for the fact that Americans may not be as familiar with this conflict as we should be. Can you help us understand what the fighting is about?

MANDIL: My own judgment is it is a personal power struggle. President Salva Kiir is in power, and Riek Machar - he has been the deputy in the party and the deputy in the government. And in 2015, Riek Machar came openly talking about his ambition to become the president of the Republic of South Sudan one day. That led to his dismissal. That is the genesis of this problem.

President Salva Kiir is from the ethnic Dinka majority, the largest tribes in South Sudan, and Riek Machar is from Nuer, the second largest tribe. And, you know, in South Sudan, these two tribes - they constitute the majority of the - of the army. That is why fighting took place with the support of these two big tribes who dominated army.

SIMON: There are 12,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops there already. The proposal is for another 4,000. I gather a spokesman for the South Sudan government says they're opposed because this would be neocolonialism. Help us understand what he means by that.

MANDIL: Well, the government is saying it is an attempt to colonize South Sudan. It is an attempt by the American government to change the regime or the regime change. That is what the government is saying, but I don't know whether that is the intention. This morning, I had an opportunity to interview the U.S. ambassador - the South Sudan ambassador, Molly Phee - and she categorically denied that.

SIMON: Do you think peace is in the future? Can you see it?

MANDIL: Well, peace is possible with the support of the international community, like United State of America and the rest. If the international community and the region can give pressure to the two warring parties to adhere to the cease-fire they declared on the 11th of July this year, respect cessation of hostilities, implement a peace agreement, I think there will be peace in South Sudan. But if the two parties are left alone, I doubt - there will be no peace in South Sudan. There will be war and war. That is the fear of everybody living inside South Sudan.

SIMON: Nichola Mandil, who's an editor with the Eye Radio in Juba, thanks so much for being with us, sir.

MANDIL: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.