South Sudan
A woman grinds millet, near two tanks, while children watch in Leer, Unity State Reuters

The UN Security Council has warned South Sudanese leaders it is prepared to consider "appropriate measures" in a bid to halt the violence in the world's newest country.

The European Union has imposed economic sanctions on leaders on both sides of the conflict but the American ambassador to the council, Samantha Power, has called on world leaders to make use of targeted sanctions.

Human Disaster

The council warned that around 1 million people in the country were threatened with famine, after the UN's humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters that the country was already engulfed in a human disaster.

"Given the dire situation in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur and the unfolding humanitarian disaster in South Sudan, it is clear that urgent action is needed now," she said.

"My greatest fear is that because of the conflict, because the agreement reached is being broken every day and the fighting is continuing, we will see a very quick deterioration of the food security situation, with the potential for a famine being declared very soon," Amos told reporters.

Civil Strife

Political tensions erupted in South Sudan in December when President Salva Kiir accused his deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup. Machar was subsequently sacked from his government post and launched attacks on pro-Kiir forces, first in Juba and later across the country.

Kiir hails from the dominant Dinka ethnic community, while Machar comes from the second most dominant tribe, the Nuer.

The Security Council was "alarmed by information that both parties were recruiting and acquiring weapons in violation of the agreement of June 10," said Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwandan Deputy U.N. Ambassador, president of the council for July.


The Security Council has discussed imposing sanctions as well as an arms embargo on the warring parties.

The council "stands ready to consider appropriate measures in consultation with countries of the region against those who will not implement the commitment to peace in South Sudan," Nduhungirehe said.

China Role

Such a move could prove embarrassing for China, which reportedly transferred a massive shipment of arms to the South Sudanese government in June, according to Bloomberg.

Consisting of missiles, grenade launchers, machine guns and ammunition, the shipment was worth around $38m.

China has significant oil investments in South Sudan. It purchases more than two-thirds of its exported oil, while the China National Petroleum Corp is one of the three companies which produces oil in the East African state.

China holds the power of veto at the Security Council.