OE Watch Commentary: With the latest South Sudan peace talks collapsing, the country’s president, Salva Kiir, found a scapegoat for their failure…the United States arms embargo. The two weeks of negotiations that took place in Ethiopia between the Sudanese government and several rebel groups resulted in almost no agreements on key issues. As the accompanying article from the newspaper The East African explains, Kiir claims the US decision to not sell his country weapons emboldened the opposition groups who are now hoping and waiting for the government to collapse.
Kiir apparently failed to mention that despite the embargo, arms are still flowing into his country. Last year the UN declared the trafficking was often coordinated through South Sudan’s neighboring countries. Nor is the US alone in viewing an arms embargo as a way to pressure the warring factions to pursue peace, with Britain, France, and several other countries also viewing it favorably. Even the UN is presently contemplating an arms embargo, though an attempt in 2016 by the US to have the world body adopt one was thwarted and it is possible it will meet the same fate this time. However, despite the US not being alone in supporting, or at least considering a stronger arms embargo, Kiir’s ire is squarely addressed against the US, with his claiming America is “bullying” South Sudan and wants to “take its resources.”
Kiir also did not mention the strong support the US provided South Sudan in its bid for independence or the significant aid the US has provided the country since then. Unfortunately, despite that aid, as well as assistance from other countries, South Sudan has become engulfed in an ethnically based civil war. As the accompanying article details, over one million people have fled the country, another two million are displaced, and the dead number in the tens of thousands.
The arms embargo Kiir rails against was emplaced not just to put pressure on the opposing sides to end the war; it is also because of the gross human rights violations both sides have committed. As often happens in ethnic conflicts, cruel and barbaric acts occur, with Kiir’s government forces, despite international pressure, not immune to performing some particularly heinous ones.
Following the collapse of the peace talks, Kiir has indicated a willingness to resume them, though it is unclear what demands, if any, either side would change in the next round. As for this latest delay in peace negotiations, the war, now in its fifth year, finds the government opposition splintering into multiple factions, a development that makes additional talks that much more difficult. Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), at 12,500 personnel, has been unable to quell the ethnic violence, and has suffered losses. Also with regards to the UN, Kiir may blame the US for some of South Sudan’s woes, but at one point the war and its casualties led UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who rarely criticizes leaders, to call out South Sudan’s political elites as having little interest in their own people. End OE Watch Commentary (Feldman)
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir blames the United States for the collapse of the latest peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He accused the US of “bullying” and “taking the action [imposing the arms embargo] to cow South Sudan and take its resources”.
Juba appears confident that the regional states are likely not to enforce the arms embargo.
South Sudan plunged into war in December 2013 after a dispute between President Kiir and his then deputy Riek Machar.