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SSudan Condemns Renewal of Arms Embargo

FILE- Dafallah Al-Haj Ali, special envoy for Sudan's Army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, attends a press conference with South Sudan's Foreign Minister Deng Dau Deng, (front left) after a meeting in Juba, South Sudan May 8, 2023.

South Sudan's Foreign Minister Deng Dau Deng said his government is disappointed by the United Nations' decision to renew an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on South Sudan, adding the move came at a time the country is implementing the 2018 revitalized peace agreement.

The United Nations Security Council renewed the 2018 arms embargo imposed on South Sudan Tuesday, banning the sales of arms to the country until May 31, 2024.

Russia, China and three African nations, Gabon, Ghana and Mozambique, abstained from voting.

Deng called the Security Council’s decision unfair, saying the East African nation has continued working on the measures for removal by the security council.

"We have discussed the benchmarks, we have worked on them as the country, we have trained the army, we have graduated and deployed them. We have made a plan of action to remove children in the army and they have been removed. We have an action plan on sexual violence in relation to the conflict, we have signed and worked on it," Deng told VOA.

U.N. Resolution 2683 also extended the mandate of the U.N.'s Panel of Experts on South Sudan to assist the work of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee until July 2024.

Deng charged the renewal of the arms embargo was a tool for the organization.

"These people want to keep South Sudan under this (sanction) so that the image (of the country) is kept as negative, we object to this," Deng said. "They want the war to continue to get their people employed as a panel of experts for sanctions and as people of human rights — they just want to create jobs for themselves," Deng added.

The resolution tasks the office of U.N.'s Secretary-General to check progress on the defense and security review, the unified forces and ammunition stockpiles, and action plan for addressing conflict-related sexual violence among others.

Watchdog reaction

Bol Deng Bol, an activist with the Jonglei Civil Society Network, welcomed the U.N. Security Council's resolution to extend the embargo.

Bol said South Sudanese leaders lack the political will to stabilize the country.

"What do we want to import arms for? Yet we have all the arms here and they are not doing any good to the South Sudanese. They have all gone into the hands of civilians and civilians are using these arms against themselves," Bol said.

Bol urged the revitalized transitional government of national unity to speed up disarmament across the country to deter intercommunal violence across South Sudan.

Sexual violence

Rights watchdog Amnesty International welcomed the renewal of the arms embargo. Sikula Oniala, South Sudan's researcher at Amnesty International, said proliferation of arms in South Sudan fueled sexual violence.

"We have research that has demonstrated that people with guns in South Sudan have used those guns to commit conflict related sexual violence. And as you know, the reduction in the conflict related sexual violence was one of the benchmarks that had initially been set by the Security Council to review this arms embargo," Oniala told VOA.

But Deng urged that the U.N. decision to extend the arms embargo came at the time when the country has made what he called "significant progress."

"President Salva (Kiir) and First Vice President Riek Machar and everybody are in the same government. We need to be supported to be able to get our country to a viable level where our citizens can do something like agriculture so that people can have surplus food, youth to get implemented. These are issues that we want to look at," Deng said.

Deng called on friendly nations to support efforts to stabilize the country, including her right to defend territorial integrity.

From 2013 to 2018, South Sudan suffered through a civil war pitting forces loyal to two sworn enemies, Salva Kiir, who is now president, and Riek Machar.

Despite a peace accord signed in 2018, violence continues and as of April 2023, 2.3 million people in South Sudan were classified as internally displaced.

Reporter Deng Ghai Deng and VOA's Nabeel Biajo contributed to this report.