The UN Security Council voted Tuesday to extend an arms embargo and sanctions imposed on individuals in South Sudan, urging all parties to “avoid a relapse into widespread conflict.”
Resolution 2683, which was adopted with 10 votes in favour and five abstentions, also decides to extend the mandate of the Panel of Experts, which assists the work of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee, until July 1, 2024.
It requests the UN secretary-general, in close consultation with the UN Mission in South Sudan and the Panel of Experts, to conduct, no later than April 15, 2024, an assessment of progress achieved on the key benchmarks set out in Resolution 2577 adopted in 2021.
It also requests the South Sudanese authorities to report, by the same date, to the Sanctions Committee on the progress achieved in this regard.
China, Gabon, Ghana, Mozambique and Russia abstained from voting.
The three African countries said the sanctions were counterproductive and did not reflect the progress they said South Sudan had made.
Following the United Nations Security Council’s decision to extend the arms embargo on South Sudan for a year, Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, said: “The extension of the UN arms embargo on South Sudan is welcome news for millions of civilians who have suffered human rights violations by people with guns, including horrific cases of rape and other sexual violence. The arms embargo is crucial to stem the flow of weapons into South Sudan, where they have been used to commit and facilitate crimes with flagrant impunity for close to a decade.
The rights group said the UN Security Council vote sends a clear message to the South Sudanese government that it must act urgently to implement the Joint Action Plan on addressing conflict-related sexual violence, among other benchmarks set by the Security Council under Resolution 2577 of May 2021.”
Reacting to the decision, South Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the renewal of the UN arms embargo and sanctions is “unjustified.”
Deng Dau Deng, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, told South Sudanese local media on Wednesday that the transitional government regrets the renewal of the UN arms embargo and targeted sanctions.
“We have regretted and objected to any renewal of the sanctions because this is unjustified. This was done in bad faith and ill intention under the spotlight of being a state with a lot of abuses,” Dau said.
Dau said South Sudan has been working tremendously in implementing the provisions of the 2028 agreement and has gone far to implement the provisions of the benchmark that was earmarked for the removal of these sanctions.
He stressed that the renewal of the UN arms embargo will affect the implementation of the security transition, as they plan to arm and deploy the unified forces in the cantonment sites.
“Arms embargo is a factor that affects the economy, the trade, the commerce and the security of the country. Prices will now shoot up because we are a landlocked country, and South Sudan relies heavily on things imported from the neighbouring countries. Therefore, the prices will increase. The investors will not have an interest in coming to South Sudan because it is a country under sanctions. This is a bad name and we are very unhappy with it,” he said.
From 2013 to 2018, South Sudan suffered through a civil war pitting forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar.
The Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan through Resolution 2018 (2018) and has since renewed it several times with the most recent renewal being through Resolution 2633 (2022). Through Resolution 2577 (2021), the Security Council expressed its readiness to review arms embargo measures, further to an assessment by the Secretary-General of progress made towards five benchmarks.
These relate to the completion of the Strategic Defence and Security Review process contained in the 2028 peace agreement; formation of the Necessary Unified Forces; progress in establishing and implementing the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process; progress in the proper management of existing arms and ammunition stockpiles; and implementation of the Joint Action Plan for the Armed Forces on addressing conflict-related sexual violence.
The UN has reported that implementation of these benchmarks has been either null or limited.