April 5, 2014 (JUBA) – A petition filed by members of the United States Congress necessitated president Barack Obama’s recent calls for possible sanctions against South Sudanese officials responsible for the current violence and human rights abuses committed in the new nation.
- US secretary of state John Kerry (L) meets with South Sudanese president Salva Kiir in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 26 May 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
On 20 March, 52 Congress members wrote to U.S Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry urging America to ensure that those who committed horrendous abuses against the South Sudanese people be held accountable.
The petitioners, in their letter, mainly called on the US administration to enhance the country’s support, further urging Secretary Kerry and the Obama administration to take “additional actions to end this conflict”.
“We must also ensure that those who have committed horrendous abuse against the South Sudanese people are held accountable,” the petition read, adding, “As such, we call on the administration to enhance the United States support and urge you to take additional actions to end the conflict.”
Violence broke out in the South Sudanese capital, Juba in mid-December last year in what government alleged was a failed coup on President Salva Kiir’s leadership by his ex-deputy, Riek Machar who denies these allegations.
Since the conflict started, the Obama administration has frantically tried to halt hostilities between the South Sudanese warring parties, encouraging them to reach a quick agreement to stop the fighting and engage in an inclusive process brokered by the IGAD regional leaders in order to achieve peace and national reconciliation.
The first days of the conflict also saw Obama’s top national security adviser Susan Rice and other high-ranking officials encourage the two parties by pressing them to end the violence and reach a negotiated settlement.
“All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in,” the executive order reads in part.
The new directive does not, however, mention any individuals to be subjected to these sanctions, but grants authority to the U.S Department of Treasury and U.S State department to identify those it was likely to affect.
“Those who threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan, obstruct the peace process, target U.N. peacekeepers, or are responsible for human rights abuses and atrocities will not have a friend in the United States and run the risk of sanctions,” further noted the 3 April order.
According to the US government, direct or indirect actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan; actions or policies that threaten transitional agreements or undermine democratic processes or institutions in South Sudan; actions or policies that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict would also attract sanctions.
American senator Edward Royce welcomed president Obama’s move, saying South Sudan was getting no closer to finding a way forward.
“We need to strongly convey to both sides, the government and the opposition that their actions to undermine peace do have consequences,” said Royce, who chairs the US Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Analysts say the US move marks a stunning shift in policy by the Obama administration, which strongly backed Southern Sudanese during the civil war years with Khartoum and when it gained independence in July 2011.