By KEVIN J. KELLEY
May 03, 2014( NEW YORK) — The United Nations Security Council signalled on Friday that it is likely to approve deployment of East African troops in South Sudan, but divisions emerged within the council over possible UN sanctions on leaders of South Sudan’s warring factions.
All five of the council’s veto-wielding permanent members — China, France, Russia, the UK and US — spoke favourably of efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) to resolve the crisis.
About 2,500 soldiers from Igad member countries, possibly including Kenya, would be deployed in South Sudan within the next few weeks under a plan formulated by the US Secretary of State and the foreign ministers of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda.
That Igad detachment would operate under the aegis of the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss), French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud told the Nation as he was leaving Friday’s Security Council meeting.
A top Igad official had earlier predicted that the insertion of troops from neighbouring countries will be “a game changer” for South Sudan, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay told the Security Council.
“Risk factors of genocide” are currently present in South Sudan, added Adama Dieng, the UN special advisor on prevention of genocide, who accompanied Ms Pillay on a visit to the country earlier this week.
Some council members suggested that imposition of UN sanctions could also help put an end to the violence.
US Ambassador Samantha Power told her colleagues they should “consider urgently” drafting sanctions similar to those threatened last month by President Barack Obama.
But Russian Deputy UN Ambassador Alexander Pankin took issue with the US stand, warning that “sanctions should be addressed extremely warily and cautiously.” Extensive experience with such punishments showed “they are far from a panacea because they can undermine the spirit of co-operation.”
Russia has the power to veto Security Council resolutions.
Stung by the sanctions imposed by the US and European Union in response to Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, Moscow may decide to block an attempt by Washington to gain UN backing for sanctions on South Sudan.
Ambassador Pankin was also critical of Unmiss’ performance. Those comments raised the possibility that Russia might also block a forthcoming US-sponsored resolution aimed at broadening Unmiss’ mandate.
Addressing the Security Council as an invited speaker, South Sudan UN Ambassador Francis Madin Deng offered assurance that his government is willing to negotiate with rebel forces. But he rejected the view that there is any “moral equivalency” between South Sudan’s elected leaders and the organisers of the armed insurrection.
A recent claim by Unicef that both the South Sudan army and rebel troops are using child soldiers was cited by Ambassador Deng s an example of “moral equivalency clouding the facts.”
The South Sudan army stopped enlisting children some years ago, the ambassador said. But a Unicef spokeswoman in South Sudan told the Nation last week that the UN has evidence of at least 149 children have been deployed in government army ranks since the start of the internal conflict in December
The majority of the 9,000 children serving as soldiers in South Sudan are affiliated with rebel groups, the spokeswoman added.