UN Security Council members are considering sanctions on South Sudan’s warring parties, envoys said after UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous demanded “serious consequences” be imposed to force an end to the violence.
Ladsous and UN Assistant Secretary-General for human rights Ivan Simonovic briefed the 15-member council on a recent escalation in attacks on civilians, including an ethnic massacre in the oil town of Bentiu and the killing of dozens of people who had sought refuge inside a UN peacekeeping base in Bor.
“Unless there are serious consequences for the parties to cease the violence and engage in meaningful talks … the toll on innocent civilians will continue to rise,” Ladsous told reporters after the closed-door council meeting.
“The UN is doing everything it can to protect the civilians fleeing the violence, the war, but let us never forget the primary responsibility for protection of civilians is with the government,” he said.
Nigerian UN Ambassador Joy Ogwu, president of the council for April, said there was support among council members for pursuing sanctions on South Sudan.
“I think we are ready to go down the road of sanctions,” French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters.
US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, posted on Twitter after the briefing: “For the sake of the people of South Sudan, international community must sanction political spoilers and those who target civilians”.
The United States and the European Union have already threatened South Sudan with sanctions. President Barack Obama earlier this month authorised possible targeted sanctions against those committing human rights abuses in South Sudan or undermining democracy and obstructing the peace process.
The Security Council is due to renew the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in July. In December the council approved a plan to almost double the number of peacekeepers to 12 500 troops as the violence worsened but so far only half those 5 500 reinforcements have arrived.
“We are refining the mandate of UNMISS so we have also to face the fact that maybe we can’t co-operate with this government anymore because atrocities are committed by both sides,” Araud said. “I do think we have to have some soul searching about what the UN should do in South Sudan.”