The UN Security Council is weighing a US request to slap sanctions on South Sudan’s army chief and a rebel commander for violating a ceasefire agreed under a new peace deal, diplomats said Monday.
The global travel ban and assets freeze target South Sudan army chief Paul Malong and rebel commander Johnson Olony for their role in the continued fighting.
The sanctions will come into force at 1900 GMT on Tuesday if none of the 15 Security Council members raises objections.
Malong, a widely feared hardliner known for his long experience as a fighter in Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war, is a former governor of the Northern Bahr el Ghazal state.
Olony, who has swapped sides several times, is an ex-government general, accused of forcibly recruiting hundreds of child soldiers.
He is now rebel commander of the key oil-producing Upper Nile state, where fighting in the 21-month war has been fierce.
Measures against the two South Sudanese men are part of a second wave of sanctions following the council’s decision in July to blacklist six commanders: three from the government forces and three from the rebels.
Russia requested on Tuesday to defer consideration of the American proposal, diplomats told Reuters.
The proposal is therefore on hold, which means that the proposal is not dead, but will be considered again at a later date.
In remarks to the press, Russia’s ambassador at the UN explained that South Sudan had requested it to oppose the sanctions, pointing out that the South Sudanese foreign minister recently visited Moscow where he signed a joint communique with Sudan addressing this issue.
“We think we need to take that into account,” said Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, as quoted by AP.
“The United States, very often they just say ‘sanctions, sanctions, sanctions’ and in some cases it severely aggravates the situation.”
Russia’s request was backed by Angola and Venezuela.
UN invites Kiir
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has invited the South Sudan president to address a summit in New York.
Kiir is due to travel to New York later this month to address the United Nations during the annual gathering of world leaders.
Under a peace agreement signed by President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, a ceasefire was due to enter into force on August 29 but fighting has continued, notably in Upper Nile state.
The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan descended into bloodshed in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar, then his deputy, of planning a coup.
The violence has left tens of thousands of people dead and the impoverished country split along ethnic lines.
On Monday, South Sudan’s army said its forces had beaten back rebel fighters near the key town of Malakal, capital of Upper Nile state.
Over two million people have fled their homes in the war that has unleashed ethnic killings, gang rapes and the forced recruitment of child soldiers.
Some 190,000 terrified civilians are sheltering inside UN bases.