“An arms embargo would hardly be helpful in settling the conflict and imposing a travel ban and asset freeze on South Sudan’s leaders would be the height of irresponsibility now.” – Russian Deputy UN Ambassador
South Sudanese officials on Friday lauds the Russian government for vetoing a UN Security Council resolution drafted by the US for imposition of arms embargo and targeted sanction on South Sudan.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, disclosed at the Security Council meeting that the US now supports sanctions, pointing warnings by a senior U.N. official of possible genocide.
Adama Dieng, U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, who visited South Sudan last week, briefed the Security Council on Friday and called for the imposition of an arms embargo.
“I saw all the signs that ethnic hatred and targeting of civilians could evolve into genocide if something is not done now to stop it. I urge the Security Council and member states of the region to be united and to take action,” Dieng told the council.
Ambassador Power told the council that Dieng’s warning should serve as a wake-up call. “None of us can say we did not see it coming,” Power said.
She admitted, however, that no embargo can completely stop weapons getting into the country, adding that “an arms embargo could have a significant impact on the ground”.
Besides the arms embargo and targeted sanctions, the US proposal also includes blacklisting of South Sudan opposition figure Riek Machar, South Sudan army chief Paul Malong and South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei.
South Sudanese cabinet Affairs minister described the proposal as part of the efforts aimed at frustrating implementation of the peace agreement and prolongs the suffering of the people.
“The government and the people of South Sudan have said time and again that there is no need to impose sanctions. The peace agreement has been signed and it is being implemented fully,” said cabinet affairs minister Martin Elia Lomuro.
“What is needed now from the international community is to stand with the transitional government of national unity in the implementation of the peace agreement. The parties to the agreement are already working together. They don’t need sanctions. So what is the use of these proposals again,” he added on Friday.
Defence Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk mentioned that sanctions would undermine the implementation of the agreement and will perpetuate the suffering of the people. He described the proposal as an “obstruction” of ongoing efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully, stressing that the only way to end the suffering of the people is a political solution.
“When you impose arms embargo on a sovereign state, what does that mean? It means you want no solution to the conflict and it does not represent any attempts to resolve the conflict you want to stop peacefully. And the solution itself becomes a problem. So, we say sanctions are not the solution,” said Juuk.
As expected, United Kingdom and France supported the embargo and sanctions against South Sudan.
The Russian Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Petr Iliichev, however, voiced his objection to the imposition of an arm embargo, pointing that the proposed sanction would complicate relations between the host country, the peacekeeping mission there and the international community.
“Introducing targeted sanctions against South Sudanese leaders would be the height of irresponsibility now,” Iliichev said, stressing that some members of the UNSC want President Kiir to share the fate of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, albeit with out a Veto, Angola also objected the U.S. proposal saying arms embargo can not be a solution.
The Chinese also expressed reservation and seemed indecisive. The Chinese Deputy Ambassador Wo Haito said the Council should be “prudent” and avoid imposing sanctions in order “to avoid complicating the situation.”
South Sudanese officials say the “whole farce” is a ploy for regime change.
South Sudan representative told the Security Council that no sovereign country can accept an armed rebellion. He said the only way to prevent genocide is to end the rebellion not impose arms embargo or sanctions.
* Sudan Tribune and Reuters have contributed to the story.