11 July 2014
Last updated at 10:40
Both sides in South Sudan’s conflict have ignored ceasefire deals and continued purchasing arms
The European Union is imposing sanctions on two South Sudanese military leaders accused of obstructing the country’s peace process.
They are also responsible for atrocities committed in the last six months, an EU statement said.
Their names are to be published shortly, when the travel ban and asset freeze will come into force.
Thousands of people have died in the fighting that erupted between different factions of South Sudan’s ruling party.
More than a million people have fled their homes as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar escalated into ethnic violence.
“Millions more face the risk of famine. Appalling human rights violations and crimes against humanity have taken place,” the Council of the European Union said about the crisis in South Sudan.
Both sides had failed to make any progress in regionally mediated peace talks, it said.
South Sudan had little to celebrate when it officially marked its third year of independence on Wednesday
“Commanders and political leaders continue to obstruct the peace process. Perpetrators of gross human rights violations are enjoying impunity,” an EU statement said.
It was “unacceptable” that ceasefires signed in January and May continue to be breached, the EU said.
“Two persons responsible for violating the ceasefire agreement will be targeted with a travel ban and a freeze of their assets in the European Union. At the same time, an existing arms embargo against South Sudan will remain in place,” the sanctions statement said.
The EU said the rapid resumption of talks leading to a formation of a transitional unity government was the only way for South Sudan, which marked its third anniversary of independence this week, to be spared “further violence and famine”.
Nick Westcott, the EU’s most senior official for Africa, said the sanctions would apply to those on “both sides” of the conflict, the AFP news agency reports.
“It is clear that arms acquisitions by rebels and government are continuing,” the agency quotes Mr Westcott as saying.
Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in December 2013. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.
Sudan’s arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan’s budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state – at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world’s newest country – and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water – up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan – however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).