By Steve Paterno
In a last ditch effort to exert some semblance of influence over South Sudan, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is finally bracing to table a US proposed sanctions regime against South Sudan for up or down vote. The efforts to impose sanctions against South Sudan have been tried several times at the Council, and all failed. These proposals have never been attracting enough support necessary to sail through for adaptation. Hence, they have been hampered on very many occasions.
Despite the uphill battle, the US administration, which is responsible for these sanctions regime against South Sudan at UNSC, has ever been relentless and adamant that it finally decided to risk it for a vote, coming December 23, 2016. Thus far, it is reported that the bidding garner only seven votes in favor, short by far of a minimum threshold required for passage. Nevertheless, this may yet presents the ultimate opportunity for a lame-duck American administration to exercise some political leverage over South Sudan, if there is any.
Ever since the war broke out in South Sudan three years ago, the US administration has been growing frustratingly against the leaders of South Sudan—the very leaders who are being blamed for the conflict. United States along with its allies argue that targeted sanctions that include armed embargo, asset freeze, and travel restrictions on responsible individuals, among other punitive measures would go a long way in resolving the deteriorating security, economic, and humanitarian situation currently afflicting the country.
In spite of this view, other members of the UNSC stand in stark contrast, offering completely different perspectives. For example, Japan is arguing that it prefers to contribute toward South Sudan in a more ‘pragmatical and constructive’ ways. For its part, Japan already has boots on the ground as parcel of a peacekeeping contingent and is also very much involved in developmental projects in the country. A Japanese foreign ministry official is quoted by news outlets as saying, "we can’t accept America’s proposal.” The said official further underscores that it is “extremely rare” for his country to disagree with its closest ally, the US on pertinent issues such as this. China, a very important voting member also publicly expresses its reservations by opposing sanctions against South Sudan. The African countries and some of the other voting bloc in the Council stand firmly in solidarity with South Sudan by rejecting the notion of sanctions as unwarranted at this point. And as for Russia, another important permanent Security Council member, it is asserted that it does not even maintain diplomatic channel of communications with America, because of a long running feuds. So, these two countries ain’t even talking to one another as the US is making rounds in trying to pursuit other members of the Council to approve the motion. As such, this proposed motion is doomed to failure.
Even then, the most significant point to highlight is to ask the fundamental questions: are sanctions against South Sudan necessary and if so, would it achieve its intended objectives? The short answer is that the long history of sanctions often produces adverse effects. This will be the exact scenario awaiting in the case of South Sudan.
Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org