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UN Renews South Sudan Arms Embargo

FILE - Members of the U.N. Security Council gather inside the United Nations Security Council chambers for a meeting on Syria, April 30, 2019.
FILE - Members of the U.N. Security Council gather inside the United Nations Security Council chambers for a meeting on Syria, April 30, 2019.

The U.N. Security Council renewed sanctions on South Sudan Thursday for another year, including an arms embargo. But none of the council’s three African members supported the measure.

Last year, after earlier failed attempts, the Security Council imposed sanctions, including an arms embargo, against South Sudan, where political violence has caused a massive humanitarian disaster, including deaths, displacement and widespread food insecurity.

Five of the 15 council members abstained on the vote — Russia, China, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa. The measure passed as it required only nine positive votes and no veto.

South African envoy Jerry Matjila said sanctions are not useful to the political process.

“When there is a volatile political process on the table it should be safeguarded and exempt from external pressure, which can aggravate the situation,” he said.

While Equatorial Guinea’s ambassador, Anatolio Ndong Mba, said his government supports sanctions to a certain extent, renewing them now would not motivate the parties to achieve peace.

“We believe there is a good time to impose them and a time when it is not appropriate," he said. "We need to give the political stakeholders an opportunity to continue in this dynamic of achieving peace through peaceful means and through dialogue.”

In September, the two main parties agreed to implement a revitalized peace agreement and end hostilities. While the situation has stabilized slightly, there are still more than 4 million people displaced inside and outside the country, and almost 6.5 million South Sudanese who are severely food insecure.

China said it abstained on the vote because it did not support imposing an arms embargo last year and it still does not support it.

But other council members pointed out that the proliferation of weapons in South Sudan has only added to the population’s misery and threatened the fragile peace.

“With the peace deal only recently extended, for this council to allow an unhindered flow of arms into the country right now would surely be irresponsible, and risk fueling further violence, and it would send a terrible signal to the people of South Sudan,” said Stephen Hickey, Britain’s political coordinator.

The U.S. envoy said there are many factors in addition to sanctions that have contributed to the shift toward peace, including a larger leadership role taken by regional actors. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen urged the region to maintain pressure on the parties to implement the revitalized peace agreement and to uphold the arms embargo.