UNSC set to debate sanctions, arms embargo on South Sudan

UNSC set to debate sanctions, arms embargo on South Sudan
UN peacekeepers on patrol in Abyei (File Photo)

The United Nations Security Council is set to vote this month on a draft resolution to renew the sanctions on South Sudan. According to the 2022 report by the council, the targeted sanctions and the arms embargo shall expire on May 31, 2022, and the mandate of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts will expire on July 1, as outlined in resolution 2577. 

The mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is set to expire on March 15, 2023, the report reveals. 

On May 28, 2021, the council adopted resolution 2577, which renewed South Sudan’s sanctions regime for one year. It encompassed the targeted sanctions, the arms embargo and the mandate of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts. 

The report reveals that the resolution contained five benchmarks for the review of the arms embargo. Some of these include the completion of the Strategic Defense and Security Review process contained in the R-ARCSS; the formation of the Necessary Unified Forces; progress in establishing and implementing the disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration process; progress in properly managing existing arms and ammunition stockpiles; and implementation of the Joint Action Plan for the Armed Forces on addressing conflict-related sexual violence.

The resolution requested the UN Secretary-General to conduct an assessment of progress achieved on the benchmarks by April 15, and the South Sudan authorities to report to the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee on the progress achieved on the benchmarks at that very date.

The vote

On March 15, the council adopted resolution 2625, extending the mandate of UNMISS for one year with 13 votes in favour, while China and Russia abstained. 

An immediate key issue for the council is the renewal of the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Panel of Experts. 

Another key issue is the implementation of the arms embargo and targeted sanctions. 

The Council first slapped an arms embargo on South Sudan in 2018 and subsequently renewed it in 2019 and thereafter in May 2021.

According to the UNSC, the arms embargo empowers all UN member states to prevent arms and related equipment such as weapons, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and any spare parts, from entering South Sudan.

The findings and recommendations of the panel’s final report are likely to inform the council’s further consideration regarding the implementation of the sanctions regime. Council and Wider Dynamics Sanctions on South Sudan remain a divisive issue in the council. 

Several members of the council, such as France, the US, the UK, and others, believe that sanctions are a useful tool to foster stability in South Sudan and to maintain pressure on the parties to implement the R-ARCSS. 

The report states: ‘‘They generally hold the view that the arms embargo has reduced the flow of weapons to South Sudan, contributing to the reduction of violence, and expressed concern that the absence of an arms embargo would negatively affect the security situation.’’ 

In December 2021, South Sudan President Salva Kiir repeatedly appealed to the UN Security Council to lift the arms embargo, which he said was dragging the implementation of the Revitalised Peace Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.

Last month, Kiir blamed the delayed graduation of forces on the arms embargo that has barred the buying and procurement of guns in the country.

 “We have repeatedly informed the UN about the negative impact this has on the implementation of chapter two of the agreement, and we have received in return more conditions that do not recognise progress achieved so far,” said Kiir.

He said that when the arms embargo is lifted, the government would buy arms from civilians as the most successful means of carrying out disarmament in the country.