April 17, 2017 (JUBA) – Japan started withdrawing its troops from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Monday, ending up to five years of its peacekeeping mandate in the war-torn nation.
- Japanese peacekeepers arrive at the Juba airport to participate in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in South Sudan’s capital Juba, on November 21, 2016. (Reuters/Jok Solomun Photo)
The spokesperson for the U.N mission in the country, Daniel Dickinson was quoted saying the first batch of the Japanese troops were expected to leave on Monday while the other two batches would follow later.
“Some contingents of Japanese troops will begin their pullout Monday, the rest will systematically follow. We appreciate their efforts and their services and dedication to the people of South Sudan,” he told a local radio station.
According to Dickinson, the Japanese contingent would leave in three batches and that the group that left on Monday had 68 troops.
Mainly stationed South Sudan’s capital, Juba, the 350-strong Japanese military contingent helped with infrastructure construction.
Japan announced the withdrawal of its troops from UNMISS in March, barely five months after the government decided to assign the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) personnel the new mandate. The Japanese constitution, drafted under United States direction after the war, forbids the use of force in settling international disputes, but the government has reinterpreted the constitution to allow its troops use force in some situations.
Currently, there are more than 12,000 UN peacekeepers in South Sudan, who have often been criticized for failing to protect civilians.
South Sudan has been engulfed in a deadly conflict between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels allied to former First Vice President, Riek Machar. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced from the country since December 2013.
In August 2015, a peace deal mediate by regional leaders was signed by two rival factions, but has since proved shaky, as renewed outbreak of violence exposed cracks in the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU).