UN extends South Sudan sanctions on arms embargo

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The United Nations Security Council has extended its sanctions regime, including an arms embargo on South Sudan for one year but without the consensus of the entire 15-member body.

All three African states joined by Russia and China abstained on the draft resolution allowing its passage with 10 members in favour of maintaining the arms embargo.

South Africa criticised the sanctions on the war-torn country, arguing they were not helpful to the current complex political process led by the regional Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD).

The US-drafted resolution garnered 10 votes in favour, surpassing the 9-vote threshold for resolutions in the absence of any vetoes. It renews the arms embargo until 31 May 2020 in addition to assets freezes and travel restrictions on eight nationals over their roles in fueling the conflict.

US Envoy Jonathan Cohen criticised the African states in the Council saying, “We are disappointed that this resolution did not receive support from the three African members of the Security Council. Just three months ago, this Council passed a resolution to “Silence the Guns in Africa” with strong AU support.  Today, we regret that these abstentions show an unwillingness to stop the flow of weapons to one of the continent’s deadliest civil conflicts.  The measures renewed in this resolution are designed to protect civilians and reduce violence in a country that has borne witness to unspeakable atrocities.”

South Africa called for the international community to support the IGAD process and lamented what it saw as undue external pressure from the international community.

“South Africa is of the firm view that sanctions should be seen as a tool to encourage continued cooperation and progress to the political process and not as a punitive measure. Furthermore, sanctions should be a used as an incentive to create stability and build an environment that is conducive to finding political agreement in support of lasting and durable peace,” says SA Ambassador Jerry Matjila.

Meanwhile, since the latest peace agreement signed in September last year, President Salva Kiir agreed to again set up a government of national unity with opposition leader Riek Machar, but the implementation of that agreement has been delayed for six months.

“When there is a volatile political process on the table, it should be safeguarded and exempt from external pressures which could aggravate the situation. Nevertheless, the process of making peace has never been, nor will it ever be an easy task as it is not a linear process but it has many layers to it.  Lastly, like many delegations, we remain concerned with the precarious humanitarian situation that still prevails in South Sudan. We call on all parties to redouble their efforts towards improving the humanitarian situation and to protect all those in vulnerable situations.”

The United States indicated it remained ready to consider adjustments to the sanctions regime in light of progress or a lack thereof in South Sudan.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch called the renewal “the right step towards ending illegal attacks on men, women and children in a war where civilians have been the main victims of the violence.”