Victoria Fleming, Blog Writer

As the South Sudanese War continues, a resolution through diplomatic peace talks mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) seems impossible. After fourteen months of destruction and terror, the deaths of tens of thousand South Sudanese civilians, and over two million displaced persons, the credibility of the peace talks between President Salva Kiir and former Deputy Prime Minister Riek Marchar has eroded.

The continuation of civil war is a product of the international community’s failure to adequately address the conflict. Even though discussions about the imposition of economic sanctions began in May 2014, the UN Security Council (UNSC) didn’t pass a resolution until nearly a year later on March 3rd, 2015 . The internal squabbling regarding the efficacy of imposing sanctions, in particular by the US, paralyzed the UNSC from passing a resolution. In addition, even though the resolution exists, many view it as being hollow. US opposition to the economic sanctions against South Sudan stems from direct US access to substantial South Sudanese oil fields. Economic sanctions would disrupt the flow of oil. Supporters of the sanctions argue that it is their political obligation to intervene since the US was a fundamental contributor in the creation of the South Sudanese state in 2011.

The UNSC resolution reads as an empty threat for two reasons. First, the resolution established mechanisms for enforcing sanctions, such as a list of perpetrators promulgating the civil war. The UNSC will use the list of aggressors to narrow the scope of future economic sanctions. Meaning, another Security Council resolution needs to be passed in order to effectively take action against the targeted individuals. Secondly, although the resolution targets the people impeding the peace talks, an arms embargo, a freezing of bank accounts, and a ban on flying were not instituted. Both warring factions can still purchase weapons and funnel money into their war effort.

Additionally, the sanctions do not compel either aggressor to participate further in the peace talks. President Kiir remained absent for the final sessions; consequently, a deal was not struck by the March 6th deadline. A date hasn’t been set for further peace talks.

Moreover, the failure of the sanctions was evident when, on March 24th , South Sudanese lawmakers extended Kiir’s term for another three years. Their justification was the instability of the region produced by the civil war. Kiir’s extended reign will have drastic consequences for the South Sudanese civilians, many of who are already suffering from severe starvation as a result of the ongoing conflict.

Considering that the US and China are the leading patrons in South Sudan, the onus is on them to appropriately address the crisis. After yet another failed peace talk and seven broken ceasefires, it is obvious that neither warring party will abstain from fighting in the near future. Harsh punishments, including an arms embargo and direct economic sanctions on Kiir and Marchar, are necessary to stop the continuation of the civil war.