Azerbaijan dispatched two officers on Wednesday to South Sudan to join a United Nations peacekeeping mission there, which has been ravaged by civil war since 2013. The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan reported that two officers will serve as military observers within the UN Mission in South Sudan or UNMISS, a peacekeeping effort meant to preserve peace in the sub-Saharan African country amidst ethnic hostilities.
The departure of Azerbaijani officers to South Sudan activated a bill that was approved in November by the parliament of Azerbaijan.
The UN is currently safeguarding the peace in South Sudan with a total of 18,802 personnel, according to data compiled by Council on Foreign Relations. UNMISS kicked off on July 9, 2011, when South Sudan declared its independence from Sudan establishing what was the newest country on the world map.
UNMISS was primarily tasked to consolidate peace and security and help establish conditions for development in the Republic of South Sudan. But a major political standoff between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar broke out in South Sudan, when Machar’s was removed from his post by Kiir due to alleged coup attempts.
That stirred up a civil war between two influential tribes of Dinka and Nuer in December 2013. Soldiers from the Dinka ethnic group aligned with President Kiir, while those from the Nuer ethnic group stood behind Machar.
The intertribal conflict has since seen armed groups targeting civilians along ethnic lines, committing rape and sexual violence, destroying property and looting villages, and recruiting children into their ranks. Over the five years of armed clashes, more than 50,000 have been killed and 2.47 million were forced to flee and seek asylum, according to UN reports.
In June 2018, Kiir and Machar signed the Khartoum Declaration of Agreement to initiate a ceasefire and negotiate a power-sharing agreement for ending the war. In August 2018, a peace agreement to end the civil war was signed by the opposing parties.
Although a nationwide peace celebration in South Sudan in October 2018 marked the end of the civil war, there are still reports of continued attacks and violations, which puts the durability of the final handshake at serious risk of collapsing.
Azerbaijan’s contributions to UNMISS is the first peace-building support operation by a Caspian region country in South Sudan since the civil war erupted there. A helicopter group from Russia served in the South Sudanese capital city of Juba from July 2011 to February 2012 as part of the UN’s efforts to launch a mission in Sudan for monitoring the fulfillment of the agreement between Khartoum and the South. But no peacekeeping troops from the Caspian were ever deployed in South Sudan.
Over 3,000 servicemen of the Azerbaijan Army have participated in peacekeeping operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo since 1999. The most sustained international operation of which Azerbaijan has been a part has been its contributions to Afghanistan, via what is now a NATO-led non-combat mission called Resolute Support.
In January 2018, the overall number of Azerbaijani peacekeepers in Afghanistan reached 120 and had been deployed in the vicinity of Kabul International Airport, for ensuring the security of the airfield.