JUBA/WASHINGTON - South Sudan's government is reacting angrily to the United Nations Security Council's move to renew sanctions on that country for another year, including an arms embargo. A South Sudan official warned continuing sanctions would weaken the government and embolden holdout groups that refused to sign the revitalized peace deal.
After repeated failed attempts, the Security Council imposed sanctions on South Sudan last year following five years of fighting that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and massive displacement of civilians.
The council said the decision will pressure the government to implement the accord.
South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei said Friday that the 10 Council members who voted in favor of the sanctions oppose peace in the country.
"These are people who do not want peace for South Sudan. The rebels are there, we have agreed but still there are rebels who are fighting the government and if you apply the arms embargo on the government of South Sudan, it means that you are actually paving the way for the rebels who have not signed the agreement," Makuei told VOA's South Sudan in Focus.
"It is being used as a weapon against the government of South Sudan so that it is weakened. Then definitely that is not acceptable because after all, not all the opposition groups have signed the agreement. Any arms embargo at this time is an anti-peace movement so that people go back into crisis again," Makuei also said.
Makuei said the government of President Salva Kiir is implementing the agreement and has rights as a sovereign country to acquire its own arms.
"When you talk of arms embargo, you don't just apply the arms embargo because you are fighting someone whether outside or inside but for your own protection and self-defense, you have the right to acquire arms as the government," said Makuei.
Juba resident Bidal Peter said continuing the sanctions will save innocent lives.
"South Sudanese are killing themselves with the guns that are bought, especially the finances [funding given to South Sudan] which are supposed to help the people of South Sudan are going for weapons and people are dying," Peter told South Sudan in Focus.
Five countries abstained from the vote, including three from Africa.
Aly Verjee, a researcher at the Washington-based U.S. Institute of Peace, said there clearly is a signal coming from the region.
"No IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] country is publicly in favor of the arms embargo and the African members of the Security Council tend to follow the regional organization's lead. They all cite the ongoing progress in the peace process but I think they ignored the symbolic value and the practical value of the sanctions regime," Verjee told South Sudan in Focus.