UN chief Ban Ki-moon has warned about an imminent genocide in South Sudan unless immediate action is taken, renewing his appeal to the Security Council to place an arms embargo on the country.
“If we fail to act, South Sudan will be on a trajectory towards mass atrocities. The Security Council must take steps to stem the flow of arms to South Sudan,” he told the council on Monday.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011 but plunged into a bloody civil war in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused former vice president Riek Machar of plotting a coup.
The two sides then got involved in a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the impoverished country along ethnic lines between the Dinka and Nuer communities. Tens of thousands have been killed in the war and over three million were forced from homes.
Machar is currently in exile in South Africa and numerous international attempts to reach a truce between the warring sides have failed so far.
Last month, Ban’s special adviser on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng, sounded the alert in the council for a full-scale ethnic civil war in the landlocked country as he had seen “all the signs” that could evolve into “genocide.”
Ban, citing Dieng’s disturbing report, warned that Kiir and his loyalists “are contemplating a new military offensive in the coming days” against Machar-allied opposition troops.
“There are clear indications that Machar and other opposition groups are pursuing a military escalation,” he said.
UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien shared both Dieng and Ban’s worries about the volatile situation in the African country.
He said the humanitarian crisis had “deteriorated dramatically” in the past four years, asking the council “how many more clues” were needed to take a “preventative action?”
South Sudan’s UN ambassador, Akuei Bona Malwal, rejected the descriptions of the status quo in his country as exaggerated that did not “reflect the reality on the ground.”
Over six million people, about half of South Sudan’s population, are in need of urgent aid. Furthermore, widespread hostilities have displaced around 3.1 million South Sudanese, forcing many to take refuge in neighboring countries.
In August, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of 4,000 additional troops with a stronger mandate than the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS) that had already been deployed to the country to ensure security amid the renewed fighting.