, United Nations, United States, Jul 28 – South Sudan stands on the brink of an abyss, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday after a fresh flareup in fighting unleashed a wave of sexual violence.
Ban told the Security Council that he was “appalled by the scale of sexual violence,” with UN rights officials reporting at least 120 cases of rape over the past three weeks.
“As we meet, South Sudan remains precariously poised on the brink of an abyss,” said Ban during an open debate on peacebuilding in Africa.
“The promises of the new state for peace, justice and opportunity have been squandered,” he added.
The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan descended into war in December 2013 and a peace deal signed last year collapsed during heavy fighting in the capital this month.
Ban has called for an arms embargo and sanctions to be imposed on South Sudan, but the council has yet to endorse his call.
The United States on Thursday circulated a draft resolution to the council extending the mandate of the UN mission in South Sudan known as UNMISS until August 8.
That would allow more time for discussions on a separate resolution imposing an arms embargo, sanctions and setting up a regional force to stabilize Juba, diplomats said.
African leaders earlier this month approved a plan to deploy a regional protection force to South Sudan and have asked the Security Council to authorize a robust mandate for that intervention brigade.
“There is a draft in the works,” said British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft.
The 13,500-strong UNMISS has faced criticism for failing to stem the latest bloodshed or fully protect civilians during the fighting.
The force command is investigating allegations that peacekeepers at a base in Juba stood by and did nothing as a woman screamed for help during an assault by two soldiers near the base’s gate.
Nearly 300 people died in the violence that erupted on July 9 and thousands rushed to UN peacekeeping bases for safety.
In response to the increase in rapes, UN peacekeepers have stepped up patrols around the base and in the city, said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.
They are also accompanying women who venture out of the base to collect firewood and procure other items.