JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudan’s government on Wednesday organized a protest against the deployment of foreign troops to secure its capital after recent clashes between opposing army factions left hundreds dead.
The African Union this week called for a “regional protection force” to bolster a 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in the East African country and separate warring parties. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has supported reinforcing the mission.
The spokesman for South Sudan’s former rebel leader Riek Machar, now first vice president, says Machar has also called for a “third force” to secure the capital, Juba, after President Salva Kiir’s forces bombed his house during the fighting that raised fears of a return to civil war.
The spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, said Machar fled Juba and will not return, despite Kiir’s invitation, until such an outside force is in place.
Hundreds marched Wednesday denouncing the intervention of foreign troops.
“If the international community continues to bring in all their alleged military in South Sudan, we will fight them whether they come by air or by road,” protest organizer Ajongo Ajongo said. “We will be malicious. South Sudan will become even worse place than Afghanistan. Let the peace come from us. Don’t impose things on us. It will be regrettable.”
Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said that “any deployment of a foreign force that is not authorized by the political leadership is going to be resisted.”
The recent violence has threatened a fragile peace deal reached in August between Kiir and Machar, who fought a civil war since December 2013 that killed tens of thousands and inflamed ethnic tensions.
Tens of thousands of Juba residents have been displaced, with many sheltering in crowded U.N. compounds.