United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on South Sudan, where violence has resumed.
“Today, I urge the [Security] Council to take action on three fronts,” Ban told reporters at a hastily called news conference. “First, impose an immediate arms embargo on South Sudan. Second, enact additional targeted sanctions on leaders and commanders blocking the implementation of the [peace] agreement. Third, fortify the U.N. Mission in South Sudan — UNMISS.”
He said the mission is in desperate need of attack helicopters and other material in order to be able to protect civilians.
Violence in the 5-year-old nation resumed on Thursday, after forces affiliated with President Salva Kiir and first Vice President Riek Machar engaged in a deadly clash at a checkpoint in the capital, Juba.
Since then, hundreds of people are believed to have been killed and thousands displaced by the renewed violence. Many have tried to seek safety at U.N. compounds in the capital, but even those facilities are not safe — small arms and heavy weapons fire have hit both U.N. compounds in Juba. UNMISS said Monday that 67 people were injured in and around protection sites and eight of them later died.
The U.N. chief had harsh words for the two leaders, whose political rivalry first sparked the violence in December 2013. He said they had both “yet again” failed their people and squandered the promise that independence brought.
“What kind of leadership is it that resorts to deadly weapons and identity politics, time and again? Failed leadership,” Ban said. He called on both men to do everything to de-escalate the hostilities immediately and to order their forces to withdraw to their bases.
The U.N. Security Council met in an emergency session for several hours late Sunday. The 15-nation council said it would consider boosting U.N. troops and police to help quell the violence and urged regional countries to prepare to contribute troops.
There are currently about 12,000 soldiers and 1,200 police as part of the U.N. mission known as UNMISS.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said before Sunday’s council meeting that “the situation is spiraling out of control.” She expressed concern over “what appears to be the lack of command and control over the troops” by both Kiir and Machar. She also called for accountability for those perpetrating attacks against civilians and U.N. premises and peacekeepers.
Two Chinese peacekeepers were killed and several Rwandan troops injured in the past days.
U.N. officials are very concerned the fighting could spread across the country. Already there has been violence in Wau and Bentiu, in addition to the capital.
A senior U.N. official told VOA that contingency plans are being made to evacuate international staff should the situation continue to escalate.