The U.S.-sponsored resolution received 10 "yes" votes — one more than the minimum required for adoption — and five abstentions from South Africa, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Russia and China. A fragile peace deal to end a five-year civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people was signed in September. But the committee overseeing its implementation says key elements have yet to be put in place.
South Sudan had faced a May 12 deadline for opposition leader Riek Machar to return to the country and once again become President Salva Kiir's deputy. It is the crucial next step in implementing the peace deal, but both South Sudan's government and Machar's opposition requested a six-month extension, which regional ministers approved earlier this month.
Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen expressed disappointment at the lack of African support for renewing the sanctions, stressing that "if there is to be any chance for lasting peace in South Sudan we must stop the flow of weapons used to fuel conflict and terrorize civilians."
He said the Trump administration wants to support African bodies taking leading roles in resolving disputes and conflicts on the continent but "support for this expanded role is difficult to envision if countries in the region are unwilling to support measures that incentivize warring parties to choose peace over war."
South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Jerry Matjila told the council that the regional group IGAD, which has been leading peace efforts in South Sudan along with the African Union, "continues to assert that sanctions are not useful to the political process."
Although progress toward peace has been slow, he said there is a reduction in "political violence" and efforts are under way to implement the September agreement. "When there is a volatile political process on the table, it should be safeguarded and exempt from external pressure which can aggravate the situation," Matjila said.
Equatorial Guinea's U.N. Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba added that sanctions "are not the right ingredient to motivate those involved to further their efforts to achieve peace." Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told the council: "We do not share the view that this progress in the South Sudanese settlement was helped by the strengthening last July of sanctions pressure and the introduction of an arms embargo."
He credited regional mediators for the peace deal and progress so far. But Germany's U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen asked "why should we send additional arms" if key steps in implementing the peace agreement haven't been met.
"The one thing this country doesn't need is additional arms," he said, adding that "human rights are still very dire." "Germany thinks the money saved on weapons would be much better spent on improving the justice system so that the perpetrators who commit sexual crimes would be brought to justice," Heusgen said.
And he asked, why not have those who want to buy arms spend the money instead on helping to meet South Sudan's massive humanitarian needs?