3 April 2014

South Sudan: Obama Paves the Way for Possible U.S. Sanctions On South Sudanese Officials

Washington — The United States president Barak Obama on Thursday issued an executive order directing his administration to impose sanctions on South Sudanese parties responsible for ongoing violence and human rights abuses in the world youngest nation.

"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person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in," reads the order.

The decision does not name specific individuals subject to those sanctions but grants authority to the US Department of Treasury and US State department to make a finding to who should be targeted.

In line with the presidential decree, the US Treasury in consultation with the State Department has the authority to target any person threatening South's Sudan stability, committing human-rights abuses, undermining transitional agreements, democratic processes or attacking UN peacekeeping mission.

The sanctions can also be imposed on anyone expanding the conflict, obstructing reconciliation, targeting women, children or civilians with acts of violence, or recruiting child soldiers.

Washington has tried frantically tried since the start of the armed conflict last December to halt hostilities between the warring parties in South Sudan and encourage them to reach a quick agreement to stop the fighting and engage in an inclusive process brokered by the IGAD countries and to achieve peace national reconciliation.

Frustrated by the persistent breaches of the cessation of hostilities agreement, and the stalled peace process, the US together with UK, Norway and the European Union threatened on 20 March to impose sanction on any party that obstruct the talks.

However, the talks did not resume and the mediators are still seeking to bring all the parties to the negotiating table.

During the first days of the conflict, Obama's top national security adviser Susan Rice and other high ranking officials contacted the two parties and pressed them to end the violence and reach a negotiated settlement.

The White House press secretary issued a statement on Thursday saying "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."

He further said that the South Sudanese government and rebels must engage in "inclusive peace process" led by the IGAD, cease military actions and bring to justice those responsible for crimes against civilians.

"The people of South Sudan are calling for peace. There is no room for excuses or delay", he concluded.

The Chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs welcomed 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 Edward "Ed" Royce.

Edmund Yakani, the executive director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) described the US president's move as "a remarkable act for bringing peace and stability in South Sudan."

The move marks a stunning shift in policy by the US administration which strongly backed Southern Sudanese during the civil war years with Khartoum and until they gained independence in July 2011.

Washington appeared both frustrated and torn by the lack of leverage it has over South Sudanese rivals and its desire to avoid punitive measures against the world's youngest nation.

Relations between Juba and Washington began to shows signs of strain in 2011 over South Sudan's alleged support to Sudanese insurgents despite repeated pledges not to.

Some observers attributed the deterioration in ties to the emerging undemocratic tendencies, which critics say has stalled internal reform within the country's ruling party.

Late last year, differences within the ruling Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) spilled over into the army triggering fighting, which President Salva Kiir and his supporters claim was a coup attempt. This has, however, been denied by those accused of instigating the conflict, including former vice president Riek Machar.

Juba has relentlessly been trying to convince the international community of its version of events, albeit with very little success.

Last month, Sudan Tribune learnt that Juba hired KRL International, a US-based public relations firm to help reverse the trend of deteriorating relations with Washington.

Established in 2007, reportedly strives to meet the growing demand from decision-makers looking for comprehensive services to bridge the divide between the US and global emerging markets.

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