Juba, South Sudan, 27 May 2021 – Human Rights Watch, a global advocate for human rights has urged the United Nations Security Council to renew the arms embargo on South Sudan in the wake of bloody inter-communal violence and rampant road ambushes by armed forces.
The arms embargo on South Sudan, travel bans and asset freezes on designated officials expire on 31st May 2021 after the Security Council extended it with one more year in 2020.
But with unprecedented attacks on civilians and aid workers still prevalent, Human Rights Watch says the renewal of arms embargo and targeted asset freezes of government officials remain a crucial brake.
Earlier this month, the government raised a concern that maintaining the arms embargo was jeopardizing the graduation of forces leading to delayed implementation of the security arrangements. Human Rights Watch dismisses the claim.
“Over the last year, the United Nations has repeatedly recorded an increase in violence at the community level in Jonglei and Greater Pibor, Warrap, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states,” it says in a statement.
The human rights group added that in the aforementioned regions, “violence has become more lethal and organized as political actors deliberately fuel underlying grievances and arm communities,” part of the statement continues.
In January this year, the National Dialogue Steering Committee organized a peace talks conference between the two most troubled regions; Jonglei and Pibor.
At the conference, Vice President Dr. James Wani Igga accused political figures of inciting communities to rise up against one another. His remarks were followed by a vow by President Salva Kiir never to mediate a repeat of violence between the two communities.
Less than four months after the conference, violence resumed between Jonglei and Pibor. Authorities in both areas reported cases of killing and abduction of children.
Human Rights Watch says the conflict has had a devastating impact on civilians with hundreds killed and maimed, thousands displaced.
Civilian property, including health centers and schools, has been attacked and destroyed as the statistics of aid workers killed continue to rise.
Heath by Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch says the government continued to use the National Security Service to silence dissenting voices adding that the Kiir administration must be pushed to abide by the stipulation of the arms embargo.
“Instead of ending the arms embargo, the Security Council should push the government to fully comply with its terms,” the rights group said.
Human Rights Watch added, “It should ensure effective management of firearms and ammunition stockpiles and hold officials who supply or sell weapons to civilians to account.”
It urged the Security Council members to make it clear that any discussions around the lifting of the arms embargo will be assessed against concrete human rights and humanitarian improvements.
These, it says, should include accountability for attacks on civilians and aid workers, reforming the National Security Service, and establishing and operationalizing the Hybrid Court in partnership with the African Union.
“In fact, the [security] council should sanction individuals who block the establishment of the court as recommended by its panel of experts,” Human Rights Watch said.
“Since abuses remain widespread, it’s not the time for the Security Council to lift the individual sanctions and arms embargo,” the statement further said.