UN proposes targets to lift South Sudan arms embargo

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at a past press conference. /VCG
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at a past press conference. /VCG

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for the implementation of the 2018 peace agreement in South Sudan, disarmament of former combatants, and establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission as key targets in proposed benchmarks for the world’s newest nation to get rid of a U.N. arms embargo.

In an eight-page report to the U.N Security Council, Guterres made the proposals in response to its request in December for recommendations to assess the arms embargo on South Sudan, which was adopted in 2018.

The benchmarks call for progress in three broad areas — political and governance issues; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former fighters and security sector reform; and the humanitarian and human rights situation.

According to Guterres, the progress in implementing the peace agreement has been slow and the proposed benchmarks “could play an important role” in its implementation.

As for security issues, the secretary-general said the first target should be the completion of South Sudan’s strategic defense and security review.

On political issues, Guterres said that benchmark would require the government to make progress on forming the transitional government, completing reforms, and ensuring broad participation of women as called for in the peace deal.

The targets should also include establishing a functioning Commission for Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing and a Compensation to look into human rights violations and a Compensation and Reparation Authority to support citizens whose property was destroyed during the conflict, he said. Both bodies are called for in the 2018 peace agreement.

Guterres told the Security Council that “once the benchmarks have been established, progress on their implementation should be regularly reviewed, with a view to adjusting or lifting the arms embargo once the stated objectives for this sanctions measure are fully met.

There were high hopes that South Sudan would have peace and stability after gaining its long-fought independence from Sudan in 2011. But the country slid into ethnic violence in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice president who belongs to the Nuer people.

Numerous attempts at peace failed, including a deal that saw Machar return as vice president in 2016 only to flee months later amid fresh fighting. The civil war has killed nearly 400,000 people and displaced millions.