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UN to vote on South Sudan arms embargo, sanctions

UN special envoy to South Sudan David Shearer discusses the war's human toll [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 July, 2018

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The world's newest country has been rocked by civil war since December 2013, with tens of thousands dead and four million displaced.

The UN Security Council will vote on Friday on a resolution that would impose an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanction top military officials.

The final draft resolution, obtained Thursday, expresses "deep concern" at the failure of South Sudan's leaders to end hostilities and condemns "the continued and flagrant violation" of agreements to stop fighting.

The US-sponsored resolution needs nine "yes" votes to pass at the 15-member council. Diplomats expect a number of abstentions but no veto. 

The world's newest nation plunged into violence in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his then-deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. 

Machar belongs to the Nuer people, South Sudan's largest ethnic group in South Sudan, whereas Kiir belongs to the Dinka, the second-largest. 

The war has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced about four million.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 didn't stop the fighting, nor did a cessation of hostilities agreement this past December and a declaration of a permanent ceasefire on 27 June.

A resolution adopted by the council on 31 May threatened an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctions against six people if UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reported by 30 June that fighting had not stopped and a political agreement wasn't reached.

In a 29 June letter to the council, Guterres said that "there have been credible reports of fighting" and UN peacekeepers had documented serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

A UN report released on Tuesday said South Sudan government troops and allied fighters killed at least 232 civilians in a five-week period this year, hanging some people from trees and burning others alive. It said the "deliberate, ruthless" attacks might amount to war crimes.

The draft resolution would order all countries to immediately prevent the direct or indirect supply or sale of weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and other equipment and spare parts to South Sudan until 31 May 2019. And it would extend existing sanctions against South Sudanese officials until that date.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council in January that the US was giving up on South Sudan's president after backing the country's independence and investing over $11 billion since 2011. She called Kiir "an unfit partner" in the pursuit of peace and urged an arms embargo on the conflict-racked nation.

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