JUBA, South Sudan — The U.N. Security Council arrived Friday in South Sudan’s capital to threaten an arms embargo and sanctions if the government rejects a plan to bring in another 4,000 peacekeepers.
The rare visit focuses on the council’s decision to deploy the peacekeepers with a strengthened mandate to protect civilians after numerous reports of rapes and attacks by government troops after renewed fighting erupted in Juba in July.
South Sudan is wary of giving the U.N. more authority and has called the plan a new form of colonialism.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power delivered a stern message on arrival, noting recent obstructions of U.N. work and attacks on civilians and aid workers.
“Our objective is not to have to get to that,” she said of an arms embargo that some council members have threatened for several months to impose.
A South Sudanese foreign ministry official cut short the opening press conference.
The diplomats representing all 15 council members are expected to meet with President Salva Kiir on Saturday and urge both sides to adhere to a fragile 2015 peace deal meant to end the country’s civil war.
Around 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers operate in South Sudan. Many in South Sudan are skeptical of bringing in more.
“We reject the foreign intervention,” said Deng Machani, who nonetheless stood beside the road to welcome the diplomats as they left Juba International Airport. “There are 12,000 troops under UNMISS, why 4,000 extra?”
During their four-day visit, the council members are also expected to visit a U.N. camp in Juba where tens of thousands of South Sudanese have sheltered from the fighting.
Several witnesses have told The Associated Press that some women and girls going outside to look for food were raped by South Sudanese soldiers near the camp, while U.N. peacekeepers didn’t intervene.