Azerbaijan will be deploying a national peacekeeping group to South Sudan to support the United Nations mission in a country that is ravaged by civil war, after the parliament in Baku sanctioned a bill on Tuesday.
“The participation of Azerbaijani peacekeepers in the international mission in South Sudan under the UN mandate is planned,” read a statement by the Defense Ministry according to Interfax.
The document that was approved by the Parliamentary Committee on Security, Defense and the Fight Against Corruption addresses the placement of a peacekeeping group of four military personnel from Azerbaijan, including three officers and one observer. The group will be deployed to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, sometime in January.
The UN currently has a total of 18,802 personnel deployed to South Sudan according to data compiled by the Council On Foreign Relations. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan, or UNMISS, started on July 9, 2011 when South Sudan announced its independence from Sudan, becoming the newest country in the world. UNMISS’ primary objective was to consolidate peace and security and help establish conditions for development in what is officially the Republic of South Sudan.
A political struggle between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar subsequently ensued there, however, after Machar was removed from his post by Kiir due to an alleged coup attempt. That led to another Sudanese civil war beginning in December 2013. Soldiers from the Dinka tribe aligned with President Kiir and those from the Nuer tribe supported Machar.
Since then the conflict has resulted in armed groups targeting civilians along ethnic lines, committing rape and sexual violence, destroying property and looting villages, and recruiting children into their ranks. Over 50,000 people were killed and 2.47 million were forced to flee and seek asylum, according to UN statistics.
Azerbaijan’s contributions to UNMISS will be the first support of its kind from the Caspian region since the civil war erupted in 2013. A helicopter group from Russia served in Juba from July 2011 to February 2012 as part of the UN’s efforts to establish a mission in Sudan to monitor the fulfillment of the agreement between Khartoum and the South, but no peacekeeping troops from the Caspian have been sent.
“Azerbaijan proved itself to be a reliable and strong partner in assisting global peacekeeping efforts,” Shair Ramaldanov, the former head of the Azerbaijan Armed Forces Military Academy’s training corps, told Caspian News.
“The national peacekeeping forces have been active since 1997 and attended various missions from Kosovo to Iraq and Afghanistan. Joining the mission in South Sudan is presumably due to successful participation in previous and ongoing taskforces around the world. This will prove once again the reputation of Azerbaijan and help improve the national armed forces.”
Since 1999 more than 3,000 servicemen of the Azerbaijan Army have participated in peacekeeping operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. Over the years, Baku has increased its commitments.
In January, the overall number of Azerbaijani peacekeepers in Afghanistan was increased to 120 a total of personnel. The main task of the contingent there is to protect the security of Kabul International Airport.