In an unusual step, the African Union on Monday said it was open to imposing sanctions on leaders violating ceasefires in South Sudan, joining a growing chorus of officials who say those prolonging the conflict must be punished.
”We need to act against those who, with impunity, are continuing to massacre their peaceful populations,” the head of the African Union commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, told reporters at the AU Summit held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Oil-rich South Sudan has been wrecked by civil war since 2013, when troops loyal to Kiir clashed with troops loyal to then-Vice President Riek Machar.
Since then, the conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, slashed oil production and driven about a third of the population of 12 million from their homes.
The European Union imposed an arms embargo on Sudan in 1994, which was amended to also apply to South Sudan when the country gained independence from Sudan in 2011.
Independent U.N. experts have reported to the U.N. Security Council that South Sudan’s government has spent millions of dollars on weapons as the country slid into famine and an economic crisis.
In January 2016 the U.N. experts reported that sources had told them that “Uganda either supplies South Sudan with its own stock or acquires the weapons and then transfers them to South Sudan, without necessarily involving or obtaining the consent of the primary seller.”
Last year, the U.N. experts said: “Weapons continue to flow into South Sudan from diverse sources, often with the coordination of neighboring countries.”