Tshisekedi joins Kiir in mobilising AU to overturn arms embargo

<strong>Tshisekedi joins Kiir in mobilising AU to overturn arms embargo</strong>
DRC President Felix Tsishekedi addresses the media upon arriving in Juba. [Photo: PPU]

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi now wants the African Union (AU) member states to push for the lifting of an arms embargo on South Sudan.

 This move now adds impetus to the position of his host, President Salva Kiir, who has blamed the arms embargo on the delay in the graduation of unified forces from the various training centres.

President Tshisekedi, who is still the reigning AU Chairperson, made this statement 23 days after the expiry of another year extension of the arms embargo by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

On May 28, 2021, the UNSC adopted a resolution to renew for a year, till May 31, 2022, an arms embargo against South Sudan as well as targeted sanctions of a travel ban and asset freeze against individuals and entities.

Resolution 2577, which was adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions, extended until July 1, 2022, the mandate of the Panel of Experts, which assists the work of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee.

President Kiir has on numerous occasions blamed the arms embargo imposed on the government of South Sudan by the UN Security Council for barring the procurement of guns on the logistical hitches affecting the exercise.

He has said previously that the restrictions had made it difficult to graduate the new peace force because the unity government could not hasten the implementation of the security arrangement.

President Tshisekedi’s suggestion that AU takes the front seat in lobbying for the lifting of the arms embargo is no doubt good news for the Kiir administration, as he has in the recent past contemplated using a stick while graduating the unified forces.

More lobbying

Tshesiked met with top officials such as President Salva Kiir, Vice President Dr Riek Machar, James Wani Igga, the vice president for Economic Cluster, the presidential advisor of security affairs, Tut Gatluak, and the Central Equatoria State governor, Emmanuel Adil.

“I join my voice to the South Sudanese in order to call for the arms embargo to be lifted because, in any case, we apply to build these regional posts and it will not be considerate for South Sudan to actively participate, and that is why we would like to call for this arms embargo to be lifted,” he said.

Kiir says the arms embargo has since outlived its usefulness and is thus serving other interests.

“While this was done to make the parties sign the agreement, it has now become an obstacle to the same agreement’s implementation because we cannot graduate the unified forces with sticks. I know South Sudan cannot do this alone and this is why I am calling upon the regional bodies to unite again,” he says.

On July 13, 2018, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan’s territory, legally obliging all UN member states to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms and related material – including ammunition, military vehicles and spare parts. The embargo also extends to technical support, training, and financial or other assistance related to military activities.

In April 2020, following an investigation in South Sudan, Amnesty International revealed evidence of arms embargo violations, including newly imported small arms and ammunition, illicit concealment of weapons and diversion of armoured vehicles for unauthorized military purposes.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Security Council said it is set to vote this month on a draft resolution to renew the sanctions on South Sudan.