An Analysis of Trump’s Unilateral Arm Embargo on South Sudan

Posted: March 10, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Arop Madut-Arop, Junub Sudan


By Hon Arop Madut Arop, Nairobi, Kenya


President Bush with President Salva Kiir at the Oval Office, White House

March 10, 2018 (SSB) —- On Thursday March 8, the United States of America once again asked, the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution aimed at effort to impose arms embargo, apparently on the government in Juba, and has circulated a draft resolution to that effect. As the US administration urge to impose arms embargo on the South Sudan’s warring parties appears controversial, it would be important to make brief comment as a person who has been all along at the epicentre of the events unfolding in the world youngest nation.

But as a tradition, one must look into the past in order to make sense of the matter that is being planned for the future. I beg all those who will read this piece to bear with me if I give a lengthy background to President Trump arms embargo saga because my intention is to draw attention to the public that taking uneducated and uninformed action, which though with good intentioned, may miss the object one intends to achieve. Follow me.

When the US President, His Excellency Donald Trump, issued an executive order, in which he imposed arms embargo on the warring parties in the South Sudan (last month), there were mix reactions both from the government in Juba and from the general public. The response of the government was that, the imposition of the arms embargo at the time the IGAD led Revitalisation Peace Forum was in session, was regrettably untimely, as it will impact negatively on the peace process itself. The government later accused President Trump’s untimely action as responsible for the failure of the second Revitalisation Forum when the HLRF second meeting ended without fruitful results.

Meanwhile, the reaction from the general public in South Sudan was that; whatever the Trump Administration is doing or has done, the people of South Sudan should remained grateful to the American people. They recalled the US contribution, when it helped the Sudanese warring parties negotiated a successful end to their

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five decade old civil war; which gratefully led to the birth of South Sudan as an independent state. Some members of the public reportedly, cautioned South Sudanese populace not to forget the billions of Dollars that the US tax payers have invested in effort to alleviate the suffering of the thousands destitute: in the Refugee and IDPs camps as a result of being caught up in the senseless war situation

Other more affluent members of the general public were of the opinion that, there was no reason to panic because similar embargoes and economic sanctions were earlier on, imposed on some alleged rogue regimes like Sudan and Burundi, but remarkably, did not work. Instead, they stressed, those sanctions made those regimes more defiant and ruthless against anything that stood on their way. As a concern citizen from this no mean country, I would like to make the following comments about the practicality and effectiveness of President Trump’s arms embargo on the warring parties in the South Sudan current civil war.

Advisably, President Donald Trump and members of his administration should not consider the on-going political development in South Sudan; a state which had just emerged from the ruins of the wars, with its people traumatized; in the same way as they look at the affairs in the western developed countries and their affluent societies. President Trump should rather provide guidelines from his various experts on conflict resolution mechanisms as to how best the people of South Sudan should come out of their predicament regardless. Arguably, apparently aware of the economic doldrum in the country and the vast majority of the people food insecure, President Trump should have rather used sticks with carrots.

Besides, if one looks critically at what may happen, if President Trump’s imposed arms embargo was effectively implemented on South Sudan, the victims will be the poor innocent people whom President Trump appears to be sympathising with them. For simple reason that, the government will gear all the resources toward resisting rebels fighting against her rather than rendering social services to her people let alone the retarded economic development. Commenting on the American arms embargo under scrutiny, one citizen told the writer that, the entire population in our country should not be punished because of the evils allegedly done by their political leaders.

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Further, if arms embargo and economic sanctions were effectively imposed on those engaged in the senseless conflict in South Sudan and in the event, several predictable scenarios will happen. These possible scenarios are enumerated here below as important guidelines for President Trump’s esteemed Administration. In the first place, the government of South Sudan, with no enough weapons to resist the rebels fighting against her and no money to maintain itself, may survive at the skin of its teeth like all the countries on which such  punishment were imposed on them: Sudan and Burundi for instance. Negatively affected by the arms embargo and economic meltdown, the government will definitely be faced with a number of predictable experiences. One of such a regrettable experience, which readily comes to mind, is the experience of the Republic of Somalia.

When the Western Powers helped the overthrow of President Siyiad Barre in the eighties, accusing him as a communist-oriented leader, Somalia, a once relatively peaceful and prosperous country was unfortunately split overnight, into two hostile weak countries; north and south. Whereas, the people of Somaliland appear to be coexisting harmoniously to a certain extent, the people of Southern Somalia; despite the fact that they are indigenous and homogeneous one people; speaking the same one language, practicing the same culture and the same religion, Islam; have been fighting merciless and ceaseless wars, without remorse, among themselves: tribe against tribe, one sect against another sect, ethnic groups against other ethnic groups. This sad experience should be avoided by all means to repeat itself in the world youngest nation, the Republic of South Sudan.

Another predictable situation that may happen, is that, both the Government and the armed opposition groups fighting against her, with the arms embargo forced on them, will definitely continue to receive weapons from across the country’s open borders and particularly, from Sudan Government, which is allegedly assisting the rebels currently, with aim to reclaim the Lost Paradise. The rebels on their part can even barter weapons in the black market in addition to the weapons they capture from the government army during ambushes; and continue fighting the pro government forces.

More worrying issue is that, with the possible breakdown of law and order in the country, the people of South Sudan, with their time honoured culture where an injury to one is an injury to all and the

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revenge killings, South Sudan will be turned into a worse situation than what is currently happening in countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen (God Forbid) that have been turned into breeding grounds: where terrorists roam about, killing thousands of their people and destroying their properties at will, without due regard to humanity or religious ethics. Sadly, with no one to bring them together and negotiate peace in amicable manner those countries will remain in ruins perhaps for many unpredictable years.

As we all know, it was this time honoured culture of an injury to one is an injury to all, which apparently fuelled the December 2013 crisis. For instance, when some elements among the Nuer people, heard that some of their tribesmen have been killed allegedly by elements of Dinka community in Juba, and without waiting to know what actually went wrong, they immediately went on revenge killing spree. Consequently; all the innocent Dinka people who had nothing to do with the demise of their kin in Juba and, who had peacefully settled in the Nuer’s counties and villages, were mercilessly mowed down.

It is against this background that one can say that, if President Trump’s Administration would like to help the young republic to come out of its predicament, he must avoid imposing solutions on its people. Rather he should devise wise and feasible means to restore peace and to move their country forward toward sustainable peace, stability and prosperity.

Arguably the people of South Sudan also expect the Troika counties in which President Trump’s country is a lead member, to use all sorts of expertise and high level diplomatic means to help resolve the issue of the young fledgling nation, whose people have just emerged from decades of wars, and with its people traumatised and need all the nursing.

The Troika countries on the top Britain,  as  a former colonial master which is very aware of the social fabric of South Sudan nationalities, should better use its much expertise and assist in restoring peace and stability, to the war ravaged South Sudan amicably. Rather than the current move or speculation to punish her with a threat of economic sanction and arms embargo, which expectedly will definitely throw her headlong into the same situation like that of Libya; where thousands of its citizens are dying at seas daily as they struggle to reach Europe after the collapse of their country.

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One important lessons USA and its Troika allies should have learned abounds. For instance, when the leaders of Libya and Iraq were killed accusing them of being dictators, with no alternative democratic systems put in place, their countries have now become breeding grounds for Islamic extremist terrorists; ‘’the Jihadists’’, who roam the two countries at will: killing and maiming people without due regard of humanity or religious ethics.

In order to avoid such scenarios to happen in South Sudan, the Troika Countries and the IGAD Countries must abandon the temptation to impose a bad peace on a nation inhabited by amalgam of disorganised illiterate people, each at one another throat. The international community should advisably assist the current Revitalisation Forum efforts to negotiate as per the proposed HLRF timeline. The on-going IGAD-led mediation efforts between the warring parties should be encouraged to proceed on, no matter to how long it would take to reach acceptable endurable peace.

Advisably, the IGAD mediators are therefore urged to revisit the making of their 2015, Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) which was ill-planned and hap-hazardously imposed on the parties and which, as we all know, did not work. Hence the current efforts are now being exerted to revitalise that bad peace.

Summing up my comments I would like to make the following remarks, which I hope will help the mediators and the South Sudanese warring parties to sit back reflect and think logically about the best ways in which the war situation in the Republic of South Sudan is to be concluded.

My first remark is that, President Trump could advisably withdraw his arms embargo executive order which was recently imposed on the South Sudanese warring parties for the following vital reason. The Republic of South Sudan is awash with various type of weaponry in the hands of: tribal militias, cattle rustlers and armed criminals. One classic example to back this argument is that, when Dr Riek Machar was forced out of Juba on the 15th December 2013 and on his arrival to Bor (150 kilometres) away from Juba, the next day, December 16, 2913, he had a well- equipped standing army though with ill-trained local militia. And without the military intervention from the Republic of Uganda, Dr Riek Machar ill trained

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militias would have, albeit temporarily, taken over power in Juba with his militias, without receiving any weapons from abroad.

Secondly the international community, the IGAD countries and its affiliates should bring pressure to bear on all the warring parties to stop and silence the guns and to support genuinely and effectively, the IGAD led HLRF. The successful resolution of this elusive conflict will hopefully enable, South Sudanese, after the successful end of the Transitional period would proudly go to the polls and elect their prepared leader democratically as scheduled by the HLRF time line.

Thirdly the most peaceful way in which an elected leader can be removed from office, should be through the use of the same democratic method that brought him to power and not the other way as some of the oppositions leaders are asking the incumbent president to relinquish power voluntarily.

Fourthly, needless to remind the comrades that, all SPLM factors, during their reunification conference at Arusha Tanzania 2014, did categorically admitted that they were responsible for the conflict that has brought ruins to their country and inflicting untold sufferings on their innocent citizens, who would be voters. At the end of their conference the comrades unreservedly apologised to the people of South Sudan plausibly for the mess they have brought on their country. As true leaders of their people, SPLM leaders are therefore urged to reunite in effort to bring sustainable peace back to their people instead of fighting among themselves over political positions in the government.

Finally, I would like to conclude that, while the HLRF second meeting was in progress, the South Sudanese faith based clerics organised a joint prayer which brought together all and sundry: the government, the civil society and opposition delegates. During the their prayers, His Lordship Enoch Tombe told the warring parties not to look at themselves and their own interest namely the political position they will receive in the negotiation but how to bring about sustainable peace to alleviate the suffering of their people. His Lordship Enoch Tombe wise advice should be the guiding principle to those who would genuinely and seriously like to salvage the current appalling situation in South Sudan.

Hon Arop Madut Arop, currently an MP for Abyei at SSLA and an international media consultant, holds a Diploma in Socialist journalism – International institute of journalism (East Berlin); Advanced Diploma in Liberal Journalism International Institute of Media Studies (West Berlin) and Masters of Arts Degree in International Journalism (City University of London). He is the author of two books: Sudan Painful Road to Peace, a full story of the founding and development of SPLM/SPLA (2006) and The Genesis of political consciousness in South Sudan (2012). He is also the author of a number of unpublished books. He can be reached at

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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