U.S. intensifies pressure on South Sudan to end conflict

South Sudan President Salva Kiir meets U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in Juba, South Sudan October 25, 2017. REUTERS

The United States is set to announce an arms embargo against South Sudan stepping up pressure against President Salva Kiir to end the country’s civil war and humanitarian crisis, three sources familiar with the decision told Reuters.

The State Department is set to make the announcement later on Friday morning, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The unilateral move would signal that the Trump administration has lost patience with South Sudan’s warring sides after ceasefires have been repeatedly violated.

In December 2016, the Obama administration had attempted to convince the United Nations to back an arms embargo against South Sudan.

Some top officials close to Kiir have already been sanctioned by the United States, including the once-powerful army chief Paul Malong, who was later fired and forced into exile when he quarrelled with the president.

While there is no U.S. weapons trade to South Sudan, arms continue to flow into the country through neighboring states from countries in eastern Europe, according to one U.S. source.

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the U.N. Security Council last Wednesday it was time to impose a U.N. arms embargo on South Sudan. Haley visited South Sudan in late October and met with Kiir.

“I urge my fellow Council members to support an arms embargo. This isn’t punishment. Nor is it a meaningless gesture. It is something we can do to actually help the people of South Sudan – to slow the violence, slow the flow of arms and ammunition, and protect innocent lives,” she told the council last Wednesday.

Any U.S. push for the U.N. Security Council to take further action against South Sudan is likely to be resisted by veto power Russia. The council sanctioned several senior South Sudanese officials on both sides of the conflict in 2015.

“The time has come to acknowledge the hard reality that the leaders of South Sudan are not just failing their people, they are betraying them. And so this Council is at a crossroads,” Haley told the council. “We cannot stand by idly as innocent civilians are murdered and raped.”