Earlier this week, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon visited Merville Barracks at Colchester Garrison to meet with members of 16 Air Assault Brigade who are preparing to deploy to South Sudan to join over 300 British Army personnel already conducting operations on behalf of the UN in the central African country. Up to 100 members of the brigade’s medical regiment are earmarked for South Sudan and they will take with them a fully equipped and modern field hospital. The MoD announced the increase in the deployment back in September as part of the UN’s effort to establish a regional protection force for the civilian population amidst renewed violence between government and opposition forces.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said during his visit to Colchester;
Britain is committed to tackling the instability that leads to mass migration and terrorism. This deployment shows how Britain is stepping up its global commitments – in the interests of humanity but also because it makes Britain and the world a safer place.
Critics of the deployment have pointed out that there is no clear plan on the future with South Sudan’s government demanding to be consulted about every single UN decision regarding the deployment. There has been widespread speculation that South Sudan’s first president since independence in 2011, Salvar Kiir, has an anti-western stance where his country is concerned and his government spokesman Michael Makuei said back in September;
We need to agree on armament, on deployment, on the timeframe. If we don’t agree nobody will enter South Sudan. Anybody who enters without our consent is an invader.
The fighting between Kiir’s forces and opposition groups in the last three years has seen thousands killed and over one and a half million people displaced from their homes. Rape and kidnap has also been rife and the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has been deeply criticised for failing to provide adequate protection for the civilian population.