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UN report slams South Sudan's arms purchases amid famine

A proposal for an arms embargo was supported by the United States in December, but the plan was rejected by the UN Security Council. Could the international body be ready to change its position as suffering continues?

A confidential UN report slams the government of South Sudan for spending more than half its budget on weapons and security as 100,000 people are dying of starvation.

The human misery is the result of famine caused primarily by ever-increasing government attacks.

Watch video 01:55

UN warns of famine in South Sudan

Experts say another 1.1 million are near starvation. In addition, the number of people desperately needing food is expected to hit 5.5 million in the "lean season in July ... if nothing is done to curb the severity and breadth of the food crisis."

The report also calls for an arms embargo on South Sudan - a measure supported by the United States but rejected by the UN Security Council during a vote in December.

"Weapons continue to flow into South Sudan from diverse sources, often with the coordination of neighboring countries," said the report by a panel of experts.

The experts found a "preponderance of evidence (that) shows continued procurement of weapons by the leadership in Juba" for the army, the security services, militias and other "associated forces."

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir

South Sudan President Salva Kiir

A petrostate

Rich in oil, South Sudan generates 97 percent of its budget revenue from petroleum sales. From late March to late October 2016, oil revenues totaled about $243 million, according to calculations from the panel.

At least half - "and likely substantially more" - of its budget expenditures are devoted to security issues including arms purchases, the 48-page report said.

President Salva Kiir's government has continued to make arms deals even as a famine was declared in parts of Unity state, where the famine is most acute.

"The bulk of evidence suggests that the famine in Unity state has resulted from protracted conflict and, in particular, the cumulative toll of repeated military operations undertaken by the government in southern Unity beginning in 2014," according to the report.

The government is compounding the food crisis by blocking access for humanitarian aid workers. Significant population displacement has helped exacerbate the famine.

Fighting began intensifying last July, devastating food production in areas that have traditionally been stable for farmers, including the Equatorial region, which is considered the country's breadbasket.

After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan descended into war in December 2013, leaving tens of thousands dead and some 3.5 million people displaced.

Watch video 03:36

Interview Peter Walsh, Save the Children in South Sudan

bik/sms (AP, AFP)

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