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UN Official: Governments Should Sanction Leaders of South Sudan Conflict

FILE - U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock addresses the media at a EU Council meeting in Brussels, April 25, 2018.

A senior U.N. official is calling on governments to target the leaders of South Sudan's warring factions with painful financial measures and other actions to persuade them to change the behavior that has plunged their country into a state of perpetual conflict and suffering.

South Sudan’s conflict is in its fifth year, with nothing more than unimaginable suffering for millions of civilians in sight. The United Nations says armed men subject civilians to unbearable abuse, using murder and rape as weapons of war.

The war has driven more than 4 million South Sudanese from their homes and according to the U.N., more than half the population, or 7 million people, need humanitarian assistance.

Despite ongoing efforts, U.N. emergency relief coordinator Mark Lowcock says the peace process has produced nothing.The war goes on.The gross violations of human rights go on and so does the suffering.

Lowcock says the belligerents do not seem to care about peace or the welfare of their people. He tells VOA measures that bear more directly on the financial interests of the people in control of the military should be considered.

“In other places, things like visa bans have been used, various forms of financial sanctions have been used,” said Lowcock. “There are lots of concerns about how various parties in the conflict are enriching themselves through South Sudan’s oil and gold and teak and other natural resources. There is also concern that a lot of South Sudan’s wealth is being held outside the country.”

Lowcock says some governments have legislative arrangements that allow them to look into these hidden stashes of wealth.

The U.N. official says he welcomed a recent announcement by the White House that Washington was planning to review its assistance to South Sudan. He says similar action is being taken by ECHO, the European Commission's Humanitarian Office

While operational changes are being considered, Lowcock notes nobody is talking about cutting off humanitarian assistance to the people. He says this must continue, as without emergency relief the situation would worsen and many people would die.

In a related development, a Security Council resolution to extend sanctions on South Sudan was renewed for 45 more days Friday after the U.S.-led effort passed at the U.N.

South Sudan’s conflict began in 2013 as a power struggle between South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and his former deputy, Riek Machar.