By Roger Alfred Yoron
Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada is in South Sudan’s capital Juba, to “observe” the activities of her country’s self-defense forces before Tokyo decides whether to continue sending military personnel on U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan and assign them to controversial new missions.
“I came to South Sudan first to observe the activities of the self-defense forces as well as Japan development assistance activities. I was very glad to be able to confirm the situation in South Sudan as well as ask for the cooperation of South Sudan in ensuring the safety and the security in terms of activities of the self-defense forces as well as Japanese nationals here in South Sudan,” Minister Inada told journalists shortly after a joint meeting with South Sudan’s officials which included the minister of cabinet affairs Martin Elia Lomoro, SPLA chief of general staff Paul Malong Awan and deputy defense minister David Yau Yau.
“I mentioned how the stability of South Sudan is of utmost importance for Japan to continue activities in South Sudan and I asked for the government’s cooperation in terms of free entry and exit into [from] the country, freedom of movement in the country, as well as when if the security situation should deteriorate in South Sudan to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals in South Sudan.”
Japan has since the renewed conflict in Juba in July suspended most of its developmental projects in South Sudan citing security concerns.
The suspended multi-million dollars developmental programs include the construction of Freedom Bridge along the River Nile and the project for provision of clean Water in Juba, until “peace is back and security is ensured.”
Japan is also one of the members of the UN Security Council which voted in favor of resolution 2304 for deployment of 4000 troops in Juba arguing that the new force will contribute “significantly to South Sudan’s stability.”
For his part, minister Lomoro said, during the meeting with Inada, South Sudan was able to share issues of bilateral relations, including peace implementation, security situation and the UN resolution on the deployment of forces to Juba.
“We are able to share very credible bilateral relations issues, in particular to do with security in relation to the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (peace agreement) and also with regards to resolution 2304 (UN Security Council resolution on deployment of Regional Forces to South Sudan.)
“We are happy that the Japanese minister appreciates the steps that the government has already undertaken towards those two important documents and we have promised that we will continue to achieve what is required by the United Nations Security Council and also in relations to JICA,” the cabinet affairs minister said.
According to The Mainichi, in Japan, opposition parties have questioned whether the United Nations Mission in South Sudan still satisfies “the five principles Japan upholds for its participation in peacekeeping operations, which include the existence of a cease-fire agreement among the parties to armed conflicts.”
“The Japanese government has said it is aware of the fighting in Juba in July, including an exchange of fire just beside the SDF (self-defense forces) camp, but has maintained that the situation has “relatively quieted down,” thus satisfying the five principles,” reports The Mainichi.
So far no exact date has been mentioned as to when Tokyo will declare its stance on whether or not to continue sending forces on UNMISS peacekeeping operations in South Sudan.