South Sudan banks on allies to veto US-fronted arms embargo

By Fred Oluoch | The East African September 18, 2017

South Sudan will be looking up to Russia and China to scuttle threats by the United States to impose an arms embargo for failing to implement the 2015 peace agreement.

The US is demanding that Juba implements the peace agreement in full before the country’s next elections scheduled for 2018, or it will push for an arms embargo at the UN Security Council.

The American proposal came at a recent meeting between the UN and the African Union Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa, in which political instability in South Sudan and Somalia were the main agenda.

Biel Boutros Biel, a South Sudan human rights lawyer based in Uganda, told The EastAfrican that an arms embargo is welcome because it would be the first step to awaken the South Sudan leadership to its people’s suffering.

“Another option would be to engage countries like Uganda, Ukraine, Israel, Russia and Egypt who supply armaments to South Sudan to stop,” said Mr Biel, who is also the executive director of the South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy.

Longstanding Pact with Russia

South Sudan has on many occasions escaped an arms embargo due to objections made by China and Russia.

In December last year, the UN Security Council rejected a US-sponsored resolution to impose an arms embargo and more sanctions on South Sudan.

It failed because of the opposition from Russia and China. The resolution attracted the support of only seven of the 15-member Security Council, where eight countries including Russia, China and Japan abstained. For such a resolution to be adopted by the council, it requires nine votes and no veto.

Again in April, Russia and China successfully blocked and arms embargo motion sponsored by the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who argued that it would not stop the war.

Diplomatic sources told The EastAfrican that Juba had a longstanding pact with Russia to defend its interests at the 15-member UN Security Council, including blocking sanctions that would seriously affect the operations of the South Sudan government.

Daniel Awet Akot, South Sudan’s presidential adviser on military affairs, maintained that the proposal by the US and human rights groups for an arms embargo is wrong because the country has the right to acquire arms to defend itself just like any other country.

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