Food for starving people, or weapons to prolong a civil war? In South Sudan, the government is putting arms purchases ahead of its people. But many countries share guilt in this, and we need to pressure our own governments.
South Sudan has gone from crisis to catastrophe. Its ongoing civil war has led to massive human rights violations and war crimes from both the government and the rebels, famine, ethnic cleansing, and more. The political and social causes are complex, but one thing is certain: ongoing armed conflict requires arms.
The UN Secretary General has long pleaded for the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, but a resolution in December failed to gain enough votes. The US, UK, and France continue to call for an embargo, but Russia and China have been against it, and they could use veto power. (Scroll back in our posts for a description of the UN Security Council, why it is so powerful, and how some countries can strike down any resolution singlehandedly.) Russia and China together have derailed arms embargoes against Syria, Zimbabwe, and Myanmar in the past decade.
But there is another side to this story. Amnesty International supports an embargo but has also pointed out that they are usually NOT that effective. As long as countries continue to sell weapons, and with porous borders and many countries lacking regulations to begin with, it is not hard to get around embargoes. Amnesty and others have called for more- an international arms treaty governing the trade in arms across borders.
But who has been the main roadblock to getting this passed? You guessed it- the United States, under pressure from the National Rifle Association. And who are the major arms suppliers to begin with? Here are the top seven in order: the United States, Russia, Germany, France, China, the UK, and Israel.
We are furious with Russia and China for their actions on the Security Council, but our governments need to be pressured too. (UN, NPR, Reuters, Aljazeera)