On Friday the UN Security Council approved an arms embargo on South Sudan which will last until May 2019.
The decision was narrowly passed retaining the minimum nine ‘yes’ votes but having six ‘abstentions’ from China, Russia, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan and Bolivia. The resolution also supports a travel ban and asset freeze of Malek Reuben Riak and Paul Malong Awan, South Sudanese military officials, who have been accused of threatening peace within the region.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but has seen constant conflict since December 2013. This was when a power struggle between President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his vice president, Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, began. Since then there has been numerous attempts at resolving the conflict but to no avail. A peace deal that was signed August 2015 has fallen through, alongside several other ceasefires.
The US had backed an arms embargo on the country in 2016 but failed to pass it through the UN.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley supported the recent move, saying,
“To stop the violence, we need to stop the flow of weapons that armed groups are using to fight each other and to terrorize the people… the arms embargo is a measure to protect civilians and help stop the violence. For negotiations to work, we must end the cycle of broken promises to stick to a cease-fire.”
Casie Copeland, senior researcher at the International Crisis Group, has remarked upon the significance of the move but notes that the actual impact may take time. She told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus,
"It depends on whether it is enforced and monitored whether it actually stops the flows of weapons in and then what the effect of that is… Certainly the country is awash in weapons already so whether it changes the nature of the conflict overnight I think isn’t something that we should necessarily expect to see.”
In response, South Sudan’s ambassador to the UN, Akuei Bona Malwal, has contested that the move will hinder the strides towards a peaceful resolution that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and African Union were working towards. He was supported by Ethiopia’s UN Ambassador Tekeda Alemu who concurred with Malwal in opposing the arms embargo and stating that the IGAD “had made notable progress, and for the first time in a long time there is some hope for a possible breakthrough.”