IN SOUTH SUDAN, 2016 concluded with reports of mass atrocities. Despite UN warnings that compared the situation to that of preceding genocides in Srebrenica and Rwanda, the UN Security Council did not vote last month for an arms embargo proposed by the United States.
“How many more clues do you — do we all — need to move from our anxious words to real, preventative action?” the head of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, asked the Council, before the vote. “How many lives, how many women, men, and children, can you — can we all — save if you, and those with influence over the parties, act decisively today?”
The Council was told of reports of increased military escalation and ethnic tensions. The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, has warned of a potential genocide. In a visit to the city of Yei in the south-west of South Sudan, he was told about targeted killings, assault, maiming, mutilation, rape, and the use of machetes to hack families to death. A vote to impose an arms embargo was two votes short of agreement.
Since fighting broke out in South Sudan three years ago, tens of thousands have died, food insecurity and acute malnutrition have reached unprecedented levels, and more than three million have been driven from their homes, the UN reports. In just one day last month, 7046 people fled across the border to Uganda.
The UK Foreign Minister, Tobias Ellwood, spoke last month of the “abject failure of the leadership in South Sudan to live up to the aspirations of its people”. The UK has contributed £342 million to the humanitarian response since December 2013.