UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has accused South
Sudan’s government of ignoring the plight of 100,000
people suffering from famine, 7.5 million in need of
humanitarian aid and thousands more fleeing fighting .
Guterres’ rebuke was delivered to the country’s president,
Salva Kiir, on Thursday, mentioning “a refusal by the
leadership to even acknowledge the crisis or to fulfil its
responsibilities to end it”.
“There is a strong consensus that South Sudanese leaders
need to do more to demonstrate their commitment to the
well-being of the country’s people, who are among the
poorest in the world,” he said.
The UN chief was also skeptical of Kiir’s intention to hold
a national dialogue, in light of the country’s “systematic
curtailment of basic political freedoms, and restrictions on
In response, South Sudan’s deputy ambassador, Joseph
Moum Malok, said the government “takes issue with the
accusation” that it is responsible for the famine in two
counties, adding that other parts of the country are
affected by drought.
He said the government “will spare no efforts to help
address the situation and calls upon the international
community to help address this urgent matter.”
Guterres said greater pressure is needed if there is any
hope of the leaders changing their approach, which means
“first and foremost that the region and the Security
Council must speak with one voice.
The Security Council is divided over two ways to step up
pressure on South Sudan’s government-an arms embargo ,
or sanctions on additional people blocking peace.
Malok warned that an arms embargo and additional
sanctions “would further aggravate the situation and
would hit hard the vulnerable groups, as the previous
experiences had proved.”
South Sudan’s three-year civil war has devastated the
country, killed tens of thousands, and contributed to a
recently declared famine in two counties.
The war began after a struggle for power between
President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek
Machar. The pair signed a shaky peace deal a year ago, but
fighting has continued.
The top monitor of South Sudan’s peace deal, former
Botswana President Festus Mogae, echoed Guterres’ call for
a unified approach that also includes the African Union
and the international community, saying the security,
economic and humanitarian situation in the country “has
steadily deteriorated to an unacceptable level.”
“Across the board, there is a heightened sense of alarm
over the fact that the situation is slipping out of control,”
Mogae told the council. “We must now stand together to do
something about it.”