The United States has warned the two sides in South Sudan’s conflict that they could face more sanctions if they do not silence their guns immediately and stop targeting civilians.
In a hard-hitting statement released Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said the U.N. Security Council is reviewing evidence that could be used to draw up a list of "political spoilers and those who ... abuse human rights and violate international humanitarian law in South Sudan" for possible U.N. sanctions.
The United States, European Union and Canada have already imposed targeted sanctions on a handful of military leaders in South Sudan, whom they accuse of prolonging the 17-month-old conflict in the country. The U.N. Security Council said in November it planned to "look very closely" at imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctioning anyone who continued to block peace in the country.
Power called on South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar to set aside their "self-serving ambitions and bring an end to the fighting" that has devastated the country and its economy.
Ambassador Power slammed Mr. Kiir and Machar for what she called their "shameful disregard" for the well-being of the South Sudanese people.
Power noted that more than three million people – or a quarter of South Sudan’s population – are food insecure, and more than two million have been forced from their homes.
The U.S. ambassador released her statement hours after a mortar attack on the U.N. mission in South Sudan’s compound in Melut, in Upper Nile state, in which four people, including a child, were killed.
Power said the attack was the latest in a series of "brutally violent acts against civilians" since fighting between the army and armed opposition movements picked up in Unity and Upper Nile states at the end of April..
In a separate statement, the U.S. State Department also condemned the intensified fighting in Unity and Upper Nile states and called for "the guns to be silenced immediately."
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf warned that anyone found to be involved in human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan will be held accountable by the international community.