A top UN aid official backs a decision by major powers to renew sanctions on South Sudanese leaders and consider imposing asset freezes and travel bans to pressure all sides to end the five-year conflict.
Mark Lowcock, UN emergency relief co-ordinator who visited South Sudan in mid-May, said despite kidnappings, murders and lootings, aid workers would stay in the country, where seven million people rely on humanitarian aid to survive.
The UN Security Council voted on May 31 to renew some sanctions on South Sudan until mid-July and consider imposing travel bans and asset freezes on six South Sudanese leaders if the conflict does not stop by June 30.
“I think measures which bear more directly on economic and other interests of the people in control of the military formations and the men with guns is an important space to look at,” Lowcock told a news briefing in Geneva.
Visa bans and financial sanctions have been used as tools in other conflicts, he said.
“DANGEROUS PLACE” FOR AID WORKERS
The east African nation has been torn apart by an ethnically charged civil war since late 2013, when troops loyal to President Salva Kiir clashed with those of former vice president he sacked, Riek Machar. Some 1.76 million people are internally displaced and two million refugees fled to neighbouring states, the United Nations says.
“There are concerns about how various parties in the conflict are enriching themselves through South Sudan’s oil, gold, teak and other natural resources. And lots of concern a lot of South Sudan’s wealth is held outside the country,” Lowcock said.
The latest round of peace talks in May failed and the situation continues to deteriorate, Lowcock said.
“The economy collapsed, belligerents are using scorched earth tactics – murder and rape as weapons of war – they’re all gross violations of international law,” he said.
“South Sudan is the most dangerous place to be an aid worker and 100 aid workers have died since the conflict began,” he said, adding: “There is no rule of law, armed groups run amok.”
The United Nations declared a famine in two districts of South Sudan last year, later lifted and some areas may be getting close to the brink, aid officials warned.
“We are concerned there are places on the cusp at which it wouldn’t take much to get to the stage where the thresholds were passed,” Lowcock said.