UN to vote on arms embargo and new sanctions on South Sudan

The Security Council is set to vote Friday on a resolution that would impose an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctions against a current deputy defense chief and former army chief.

The final draft resolution, obtained Thursday, expresses "deep concern" at the failure of South Sudan's leaders to end hostilities and condemns "the continued and flagrant violation" of agreements to stop fighting.

The U.S.-sponsored resolution needs a minimum of nine "yes" votes for adoption by the 15-member council. Diplomats said they expected a number of abstentions though no veto.

There were high hopes that South Sudan would have peace and stability after its independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011. But the world's newest nation plunged into ethnic violence in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice president who is a Nuer.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 didn't stop the fighting, and neither did a cessation of hostilities agreement this past December and a declaration on June 27.

A resolution adopted by the council May 31 threatened an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctions against six people if Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reported by June 30 that fighting had not stopped and a political agreement wasn't reached. Guterres said in a June 29 letter to the council that "there have been credible reports of fighting" and U.N. peacekeepers had documented serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law

A U.N. report released Tuesday said South Sudan government troops and allied fighters killed at least 232 civilians in a five-week period this year, hanging some people from trees and burning others alive. It said the "deliberate, ruthless" attacks might amount to war crimes.

At one point during the negotiations on the current draft resolution, seven people would have been added to the sanctions list. But the final draft would add only add two: Malek Reuben Riak Rengu, the deputy chief of the defense staff for logistics, and Paul Malong Awan, the former chief of the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

The resolution would also order all countries to immediately prevent the direct or indirect supply or sale of weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and other equipment and spare parts to South Sudan until May 31, 2019. And it would extend existing sanctions against South Sudanese officials until that date.

The draft resolution says that arms shipments "risk fueling conflict and contributing to further instability and strongly urges all member states to take urgent action to identify and prevent such shipments within their territory."

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council in January that the United States was giving up on South Sudan's president after backing the country's independence and investing over $11 billion since 2011. She called Kiir "an unfit partner" in the pursuit of peace and urged an arms embargo on the conflict-racked nation.