United Nations, United States | AFP | The UN Security Council is expected to vote on Friday on a US-drafted resolution to impose an arms embargo and sanctions on South Sudan, now in its fourth year of war.
It remained unclear however whether the measure would be adopted, with diplomats saying that it fell short of the nine votes needed for adoption in the 15-member council, diplomats said.
The United States has argued that cutting off the arms flow was urgently needed following UN warnings that the country faced the risk of mass atrocities.
Russia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Venezuela and more importantly the three African council members — Angola, Egypt and Senegal– have all expressed serious reservations.
Japan, which has sent troops to the UN mission in South Sudan, has argued that imposing an arms embargo would antagonize President Salva Kiir’s government and put peacekeepers’ lives at risk.
The United States requested that a vote take place on Friday. Britain and France support the move.
“It’s clearly the right thing to do to limit the number of weapons coming into a country which is awash with weapons,” said British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft.
“The warning signs of a potential slip towards genocide are there,” he said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is backing the US call to ban arms deals with South Sudan, saying an embargo would reduce the capacity of all sides to wage war.
“If we fail to act, South Sudan will be on a trajectory towards mass atrocities,” Ban told the council on Monday.
The draft resolution provides for a one-year ban on the “supply, sale or transfer” of “arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment” as well as spare parts.
The measure would also put South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar, army chief Paul Malong and Information Minister Michael Makuei on a sanctions blacklist that provides for an assets freeze and a global travel ban.
More than 6 million people — half of South Sudan’s population — are in need of urgent aid and humanitarian organisations expect this number to rise by 20 to 30 percent next year, UN officials say.
Some 1.3 million South Sudanese have fled across borders as refugees, including 383,000 who have fled to Uganda since July.
The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan descended into war in December 2013, leaving tens of thousands dead and more than 3.1 million people displaced.
The country won independence from Sudan in 2011 with strong support from the United States.