As concerned citizens from Africa standing in solidarity with the people of South Sudan, we write to you as you approach a critical decision that could have lasting implications for the fragile peace and the future stability of Africa’s youngest nation state.
In 2018, the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan to stop the unhindered flowofweaponstoarmed groupsandtohelpend a conflictthathasresultedinuntold human suffering and Africa’s largest refugee crisis. The Council voted to renew the embargo for a further one year in May 2019 as disputes between the parties to the conflict resulted in delays in implementation of the peace agreement.
Since then, those who have championed the peace process were able to surmount the numerous delays and internecine disputes between the parties to the Revitalized Peace Agreement and South Sudan achieved an important milestone through the partial formation of a transitionalgovernmentonFebruary 22,2020. However,thepeaceinSouthSudanremains fragile and vulnerable as evidenced by outbreaks of intercommunal violence as well as fighting between and among the parties to the agreement as well as holdout armed groups not party to the agreement. The parties to the agreement have acted against the spirit and the letter of their agreement to implement security arrangements that would unify their armed forces and protect civilians from further armed conflict.
While we are painfully aware that there are those within the Council inclined to acknowledge and reward the progress made so far by lifting the arms embargo, we urge you not to do so. Lifting the embargo at this time would only strengthen the hand of those who seek to amass weapons for their own political gain and would sign the death sentences of civilians desperate for an end to the suffering caused by these weapons.
South Sudan is already flooded with weapons. These have been used not just by armed forces and groups, but also by militias and even farmers and pastoralists. The prevalence of weapons has encouraged fighting at the expense of peacemaking. Without strong containment measures, we fear the contagion of war that has plagued South Sudan’s history will continue to spread unchecked. Since December 2013, the country’s elite have spent unprecedented amounts of money buying weapons and have repeatedly flouted the 2018 arms embargo imposed by the Council. Lifting the embargo sends the message that they can continue to do so even as the humanitarian situation deteriorates in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
To give peace a chance in South Sudan, the champions of peace must prioritize establishment of stable security measures to prevent proliferation of arms to the numerous and already well-armed groups in the country. The embargo must not be lifted before this occurs. In voting to renew the arms embargo, the Council will be sending a clear message to South Sudan’s leaders to focus their efforts on security sector reforms, peacebuilding, health, infrastructure and other reforms that will serve the people of South Sudan. Voting to renew the embargo is also a reaffirmation of the African Union’s aspiration of 2020 to Silence the Guns permanently in Africa and a clear proclamation that the international community will no longer allow merchants of violence to seek power through the barrel of the gun. Voting to renew the embargo will renew the hope of those who seek to end the cycle of suffering in South Sudan.
We urge the Security Council, in solidarity with the people of South Sudan, to take a vote at this critical juncture that will inspire hope, not fear and protect the country’s most vulnerable from further violence and suffering.
Abubakar ZEIN, Executive Director MUHURI, former Member East Africa Legislative Assembly (Kenya)
Alice MOGWE – President, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the founder and director of DITSHWANELO -the Botswana Centre for Human Rights. (Botswana)
Brian KAGORO – Founder and Executive Director of UHAI Africa Group
Deus Valentine RWEYEMAMU Chief Executive Officer, Center for Strategic Litigation, ( Tanzania)
Dismas NKUNDA – Founder and Executive Director of Atrocities Watch Africa and long-time leader in Ugandan civil society. (Uganda)
Dr. Vishwas SATGAR – Activist and the co-founder of the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign (South Africa)
Ela GANDHI – Founder of the Gandhi Development Trust and peace activist (South Africa)
Emmanuel Kabengele – Coordonnateur National Réseau pourla Réforme du Secteur de Sécurité et de Justice DRC (DRC)
Evelyn ANKUMAH – Founding Executive Director Africa Legal Aid, (Ghana)
Gamal EID – Lawyer, human rights activist and the Executive Director for the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) (Egypt)
George KEGORO – Executive Director, Kenya Human Rights Commission and former Executive Director of the Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists. (Kenya)
James YARSIAH- Executive Director, Land and Rice Foundation (Liberia)
John GITHONGO – Founder and CEO of Inuka Kenya Trust and former anti-corruption czar turned whistle blower.
Kasereka Kitakya JERRY – Coordinator GADHOP (Groupe d’Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme et de la paix) (DRC)
Madame Lily ANZULUNI – Coordinator FECONDE (Femmes Congolaise pour le Développement) (DRC)
Maina KIAI – Co-founder of the Kenya Human Rights Commission and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (Kenya)
Makau MUTUA, SUNY Distinguished Professor (Kenya)
Mohammed NDIFUNA – Executive Director Justice Access Point (Uganda)
Pali LEHOHLA – Research Associate with the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (South Africa)
Paluku ISAMURA – Coordinator CEPROSSAN (Centre de Promotion Socio-Sanitaire) (DRC) Professor Barney PITYANA – Human rights academic and activist and former Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission (South Africa)
Radwan A. MASMOUDI – Founder and President of the Center of the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID) (Tunisia)
Reem ABBAS – Civil Society Advocate (Sudan)
Rotimi OLAWALE – Executive Director, Youthhub Africa (Nigeria)
Sithembele MBETE – Published political researcher specializing in International Relations and South African politics (South Africa)
Ziad Abdel SAMAD – Executive Director of the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) (Lebanon)