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Obama Asked to Support Arms Embargo

  • Joe DeCapua

In this file photo of Sunday Dec. 29, 2013 file photo, displaced people gather around a water truck to fill containers at a United Nations compound which has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, in the capital Juba, South Sudan. One year after mass violence broke out in South Sudan, battles between government forces and rebel fighters continue, and aid officials say the international community must help residents stave off mass hunger.(AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

In this file photo of Sunday Dec. 29, 2013 file photo, displaced people gather around a water truck to fill containers at a United Nations compound which has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, in the capital Juba, South Sudan. One year after mass violence broke out in South Sudan, battles between government forces and rebel fighters continue, and aid officials say the international community must help residents stave off mass hunger.(AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

Nearly 30 South Sudanese and international organizations are calling on President Obama to support a U.N. arms embargo on South Sudan. The human rights and humanitarian groups say the flow of weapons has brought increasing attacks on civilians.

The Obama administration has been reluctant to support an arms embargo on South Sudan. It’s reportedly concerned the weapons ban would disproportionately hurt the government. Some European countries and Australia favor such an embargo.

The U.S. does support targeted sanctions and travel bans on individuals. In November, the administration said it would circulate a draft resolution on sanctions, but that has not materialized yet.

The groups calling for the arms embargo have sent a letter to Mr. Obama that said, “The conflict that erupted in Juba thirteen months ago has been characterized by a complete disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law.”

It went on to say that “South Sudan’s capital Juba as well as Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Unity states have seen gruesome attacks on civilians and massive destruction and pillage that amount to war crimes -- and in some cases acts that should be investigated as crimes against humanity.”

In Nairobi, Nyagoah Tut spoke on behalf of Amnesty International.

‘It is one year since the conflict started and the recent actions by the parties to the conflict do not suggest that the conflict is about to end anytime soon.’

The rights and humanitarian groups said, “Serious human rights abuses by government and opposition forces - as well as other armed actors allied to them - have also pushed much of the country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.”

They said that nearly two-million people have been displaced and are vulnerable to possible famine.

“The conflict in South Sudan has been characterized by the use of small and light weapons. Most of them have been acquired because people are obviously in the army and others were able to get them when they were defecting from the army. They were also able to capture them. But there are countries that are supplying South Sudan with ammunition and the longer this is allowed to happen then the longer the conflict becomes protracted,” said Tut.

Edmund Yakani is executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization or CEPO. From Juba, he said, “The warring parties are not much interested in merely reaching a solution, peaceful solution. The warring parties are much more interested in sorting out their political differences with a military approach.”

South Sudan peace talks are being brokered by IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. IGAD heads of state will meet in Addis Ababa on January 18th to assess what, if any, progress is being made.

Yakani said as the summit approaches warring parties are trying to better their military positions.

"The military frontline is opening up. The last three days there’s a military confrontation between South Sudan’s army and the rebels. And unfortunately, all the international community [is] quiet. We have not seen a very strong condemnation on that,” he said.

The letter to President Obama also warned that “ethnic killings will continue and could drastically intensify.” In addition, it said, “An arms embargo would help to halt the supply of weapons to individuals and groups who have committed serious violations of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Geoffrey Duke of The South Sudan Network on Small Arms said that “more weapons will mean more fuel to the fire.”

NGOs have called for an arms embargo for South Sudan since early last year.

The government said South Sudan is a sovereign nation and has the right to buy arms. It said the rebels are obstructing peace and calls the NGO letter an “unfortunate document written by the enemies of South Sudan.” The rebels, however, said they would welcome an arms embargo.

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