July 10, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese rebels of the armed opposition faction of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM/A) have welcomed sanctions imposed on the two warring parties on Thursday by the European Union, urging other regional and international players to impose more “effective” sanctions in order to “swiftly” end the seven-month-old crisis.
- South Sudan’s former vice-president turned rebel leader, Riek Machar, says regional sanctions could effectively end conflict in the country (Photo: Reuters)
The new sanction targeted two individual yet to be named senior military commanders suspected to be the same individuals previously sanctioned by the US government. These were the presidential guards unit commander, Gen Marial Chinuong Yol, on the side of the government and Gen Peter Gatdet Yak on the rebels side.
The sanction also renewed the existing arms embargo imposed on South Sudan by the EU, which however seemed to have no decisive impact on the warring parties as they continued to access arms.
In a press statement seen by Sudan Tribune issued on Thursday and signed by the chairman of the national committee for information and public relations, Mabior Garang de Mabior, the rebel movement however welcomed the decision taken by the EU.
“The SPLM/SPLA [in opposition] would like to inform the people of South Sudan that their movement welcomes this action by the Council of the European Union. The SPLM/SPLA specially welcomes that an existing arms embargo in South Sudan will remain in place,” the statement reads in part, stressing that such sanctions would help bring a swift end to the conflict.
“This will help stop the parties from arming themselves through such deals as the recent NORINCO arms deal with the government of South Sudan, financed by TRAFIGURA PTE LTD, amongst others,” it added.
The armed opposition group called on the international community to “impose more targeted sanctions that have greater effect in compelling the parties and decision makers to negotiate in good faith.”
The statement argued that sanctions imposed so far have only targeted individuals that are of little consequence in decision making and financing of the conflict.
MACHAR ENCOURAGES REGIONAL SANCTIONS
The top opposition leader Riek Machar, in a press conference he conducted on Wednesday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, said regional sanctions would be more effective option to quell the country’s ongoing conflict.
However, he claimed the government in Juba would have a problem accepting any sanctions if it is to be imposed by regional players.
According to Machar, East African countries have the power to end the ongoing crisis in the young nation, calling on member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which is mediating the peace talks between the rival parties, to show courage and impose sanctions.
“If Khartoum would take the courage and say the oil from South Sudan is not going to flow through its pipelines, this would be very effective indeed,” said Machar at the press conference to mark the third anniversary of South Sudan’s independence from Sudan.
“If Kenya says imports and exports of South Sudan will not pass through Mombasa next week, we will have peace,” he added.
Machar, a former vice-president accused Juba of using oil revenues to pay mercenaries and foreign forces reported to be in direct combat against his forces.
He alleged the government of president Salva Kiir was paying Kampala 3 million US dollars a day to sustain the presence of Ugandan forces in South Sudan.
Machar, however, downplayed sanctions already imposed by the United States against targeted individuals it deemed responsible for committing abuses, including the rebel group’s military commander, Peter Gadet.
In May, the US slapped sanctions on two military leaders from either side of the warring SPLM factions, later warning it was considering imposing more.
In the sanctions, the US imposed financial penalties and travel ban against Peter Gatdet, who was the first army commander to defect to Machar in protest over the massacre in Juba of thousands of Nuer civilians in the aftermath of 15 December violence.
Gatdet and Chinuong, commander of the South Sudan’s presidential guards unit who was allegedly ordered by president Kiir on 15 December to disarm Nuer soldiers among the guards, which triggered the violence have been dealt financial penalties and banned from travelling to the US.
Machar however expressed regret at the decision, while questioning whether the US sanctions would have any deterrent effect.
“I was surprised that the sanctions were targeting individuals. Peter Gatdet was pushed to resist and he may not be the one who started the war and he could be found innocent in court,” Machar said.
“If sanctions are to be imposed; a sanction imposed by the region would be more effective than the Americans,” he added.
In May, US secretary of state John Kerry threatened sanctions and other consequences against Machar should he refuse to commit to peace talks aimed at ending the conflict, which erupted in mid-December last year after a political split in the ruling SPLM turned violent.
The conflict has killed some 10,000 people, according to some estimates, while more than 1.3 million have been displaced.
However, Machar maintained he was not worried about the possibility of having sanctions imposed against him.
“Except for the travel ban, I have no property that could be sanctioned,” he said.
“But why would sanctions be imposed on me; for running away and not allowing myself to be killed? Will that be the reason for me to be sanctioned?” he challenged.
STALLED PEACE TALKS
The rebel leader further underscored the importance for an immediate resumption of stalled peace talks, which were indefinitely adjourned last month amid disagreement over the selection process for other stakeholders wishing to participate in negotiations.
Machar said the rebel group had since raised its concerns over the selection process to IGAD, Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn and UN secretary-general, Ban Ki Moon.
“If IGAD Is finding difficulties in selecting stakeholders in a transparent manner and in an inclusive way; instead of quarrelling over which stakeholders participate, we can hold direct talks with the government to avoid further delay of [the] peace talks,” he said.
He called on IGAD mediators to review the “flawed” selection process for stakeholders, stressing that their participation in the peace process offers the best chance for the transformation and restructuring of South Sudan as a federal state.
“In the light of this demand, we call upon the IGAD mediation to resume the peace talks,” he added.
Machar, meanwhile, has welcomed an interim report by the African Union Commission of Inquiry, a team tasked with investigating human rights violations and other abuses committed in South Sudan by the two rival factions during the latest conflict.
He urged the commission to complete its task before the completion of the peace talks, describing it as a vital component to a final peace settlement.
He affirmed his group would cooperate with the AU team of investigators and pledged to provide them any information his group obtains.
CALLS FOR STRUGGLE
The rebel leader accused Kiir of dividing the nation and using his state power and resources to sustain his grip on the top leadership.
He called on all South Sudanese to join the struggle for “the transformation and establishment of a democratic federal state”.
“We regret that we are celebrating the third anniversary under the tyranny of Salva Kiir,” he said.
“However, it is our desire that we will all celebrate the fourth anniversary in a peaceful federal state,” said the opposition leader who described himself as federalist.
South Sudan seceded from the north after a 2005 peace deal ended a 21-year old civil war, paving the way for a referendum on self-determination.
The ongoing peace process mediated by the regional body, IGAD, provides hope to end the war which has already resulted to the demise of tens of thousands of human lives and displaced over 1.3 million others over the past seven months.