A diplomatic row between the United States and Juba could escalate if the government of President Salva Kiir does not double its efforts in putting a final and lasting end to the civil war which has claimed hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese.
U.S. envoy to South Sudan Thomas Hushek told reporters that Washington contends that all the powers to accelerate the reforms needed to push through the 2018 peace deal rest with president Kiir as opposed to his rival and opposition leader Riek Machar.
“It is the government that has more technical capacity and more political will to actually start tackling these many reforms that are built into the peace agreement,” Hushek said.
“I do not see us removing the sanctions we have done, and we will continue to use sanctions as one of the tools we have,” he emphasized.
Washington through the Treasury State department slapped sanctions on two other South Sudan officials, close to president Kiir who it accuses of instigating and stirring the conflict which has bedeviled Africa’s youngest country since 2013.
South Sudan Minister of Cabinet Affairs Martin Elia Lomuro and Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs Kuol Manyang Juuk were blacklisted on Monday for “their role in inhibiting political unification, expanding the conflict, and profiting from South Sudan’s war economy,” according to a statement by Deputy Treasury Secretary Justin Muzinich.
The move shows that U.S. sanctions list against army generals in Juba is expanding, following a number of similar travel bans against other officials in the previous years.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions are targeting top officials whose “actions rob South Sudan of the security, stability, and confidence in government that is needed to negotiate and implement a lasting peace.”
Pompeo in late November recalled ambassador Hushek back to Washington, signaling the height of tensions with the East African country. He said the move was “part of the re-evaluation of the U.S. relationship with the Government of South Sudan given the latest developments.”
“We will work with the region to support efforts to achieve peace and a successful political transition in South Sudan,” he said in a tweet.
This decision was widely viewed as a signal of Washington’s displeasure over South Sudan’s failure to meet an extended deadline for forming a unity government, a critical component of a peace deal aimed at ending a bloody five-year civil war in the eight year-old nation.
South Sudan has since asked the U.S. to reconsider its current position and help to accelerate the peace effort in order to re-emerge from the rubble of war.
South Sudan Foreign Minister spokesperson Mawien Makol was quoted by Voice Of America as sayings Juba was disappointed in what he called “double standards” adding that South Sudan’s president and opposition party had agreed that “outstanding issues [in the peace process]have to be given time.”
The joint government
Kiir and Riek Machar announced Monday that they have reached a deal to form a transitional unity government even if they fail to resolve all their differences before a new deadline.
“We said that after 100 days we must form the government of national unity. If the arrangements are not complete, we shall form a transitional government of national unity to implement the outstanding issues,” Kiir told reporters in juba during a joint presser with Machar after three days of talks.
“The ceasefire will continue to hold and no one from us is willing to go back to war,” Kiir added.
“We have talked about the number of states and boundaries but we didn’t reach a deal on the states,” Machar said.
They signed a peace deal in August last year under pressure from the United Nations, United States and countries in the region to end a five-year civil war and agreed to form a unity government by November 12, 2019, which they were forced to extend for more a hundred days over pending disagreement of what they called “critical issues.”