“We support actions more than sanctions”
Denouncing atrocities and human rights violations committed by the warring factions in South Sudan, Ambassador Okamura Yoshifumi Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s special envoy to South Sudan told reporters on Thursday that his country would, however, reject the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) draft resolution to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan.
Conferring with Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, current chairman of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), at his office, Ambassador Yoshifumi stated that Japan does not support the move the UNSC is considering to take with regards to South Sudan. Refuting the measures UNSC is about to vote on, Japan is inclined to support regional peace initiatives, which proposed the deployment of Regional Peace Forces (RPFs) to stop atrocities, killings and violations of human rights in that country, he said. Protection of aid workers is part of the mission of this peacekeeping force which Japan supports wholeheartedly, the special envoy echoed during his presser.
In addition to urging for inclusive peaceful dialogue, the ambassador conveyed Prime Minister Abe’s message that requested those involved in the killings of civilians to be held accountable.
According to the ambassador, Abe’s administration has approved and deployed 350 contingency military personnel to South Sudan. Nevertheless, the ambassador denied involvement of the troops in any combat missions so far and assured that they are not mandated to do so. Rather, the Japanese contingent is involved in the rebuilding of South Sudan’s war-torn infrastructure.
Spending three days in Juba, ambassador Yoshifumi met President Salva Kiir and his ministers before he left for Addis Ababa to have talks with PM Hailemariam and his chief of staff. Asked by the Associated Press whether the ambassador has spoken with South Sudanese authorities regarding the whereabouts of the deposed Riek Machar (PhD), former vice president-turned-rebel chief of South Sudan, ambassador Yoshufimi stated that the ousted leader should be part of the newly-launched national dialogue, which President Kiir announced a few days ago. According to media reports, Macahr is believed to be under house arrest in South Africa.
The birth of South Sudan in 2011 as a new nation in the Horn of Africa has seen bloodshed and despicable violence in its immediate aftermath. So far, peace accord, negotiation or mediation attempts by IGAD member states has not been successful. Back in 2015, IGAD came up with a roadmap suggesting power sharing arrangement in an inclusive transitional government planned to be established in the country. The proposal of the regional block was swiftly scarped by both Kiir and Machar.
Yet, ambassador Yoshifumi argues that it’s a hasty generalization to claim the peace processes are failures altogether. He also denounced the motive of UNSC saying “it’s too early to impose sanctions”. According to the ambassador, the effectiveness of the arms embargo is dubious and might further escalate the already worsened crisis in South Sudan.
In contrast to the Japanese, the government of United States through its ambassador to the UN, Samantha Powers, urged the international community to impose sanctions on South Sudan as the situation is getting dire. But, despite international pressures, plight of civilians in South Sudan is still unrelenting. Currently, reports are suggesting that South Sudan is on the brink of resorting to genocide.
The civil war that broke out in 2013 under the pretext of a conflict that erupted between the personal guards of president Kiir and Machar has so far claimed some 300,000 lives. About three million people have been displaced in a country of 12 million; with millions internally displaced and one million having fled to neighboring countries, especially Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda.