South Sudan’s minister of information says the United States is meddling in South Sudan’s internal affairs by trying to influence the outcome of ongoing peace negotiations.
Michael Makuei was reacting to an executive order issued Thursday by President Barack Obama clearing the way for U.S. sanctions on anyone threatening the stability of South Sudan, as well as those committing human-rights abuses.
Makuei denies that anyone in the South Sudan government is impeding current peace talks being held under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Makuei says the executive order will obstruct the ongoing peace process more.
“In the first place, I don’t know what are the criteria used by him (President Obama) to decide whether X or Y has committed human rights violations or abuses,” Makuei said.
Makuei said the East Africa regional group Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has already decided to set up a committee to investigate allegations of rights violation in the South Sudan conflict.
He said it would have been better had Mr. Obama waited for the outcome of an IGAD investigation before authorizing sanctions.
“The investigation has not yet started, and based on that investigation, this would have been the most appropriate time for him (Obama) to decide as to who violated and what action should be taken against them,” Makuei said.
Makuei said while many were killed and tens of thousands displaced by the December 15 conflict, the government of South Sudan did not commit any human rights violation.
“A lot of people died, but did you investigate so that you decide as to who committed what, or are you basing your claims on individual reports submitted people who decided to give misleading reports,” Makuei said.
Though South Sudan’s warring parties signed a permanent ceasefire agreement in January, ongoing peace talks in Ethiopia have stalled.
The South Sudan government said late last month that it will not take part in the peace process if a group of former high-ranking political leaders - whom the government detained after fighting broke out in December – join the talks as a third party.
Makuei said the government is not obstructing the peace process but simply stating the position of South Sudanese.
“We are negotiating and in the process of negotiation. There is no question of obstruction as long as you continue to state what you believe to be the position of the people of South Sudan,” Makuei said.
He said “foreign intervention” in the negotiations between the government and rebels was responsible for obstructing peace in South Sudan.
“This excessive intervention with the objective of driving the peace process in the direction people want, this is what is causing us problems. Not the rebels or the government,” Makuei said.
Asked to be specific in his allegations of foreign intervention, the South Sudan government spokesman said the United States was meddling in South Sudan affairs and gave an example that he claimed came from U.S. Ambassador Susan Page.
“From the side of America, this has been clearly confirmed by Susan Page in a lecture which she gave at one of the universities in America and she confirmed the position of the people and government of America because she clearly stated that they support the rebels, and that the rebels are fighting a just war,” Makuei said.
There is no record that Page made those comments.
Page said in an interview with VOA last month that the South Sudan conflict was not winnable “through the use of force and weapons.”
“We reiterate there cannot be a solution militarily to this conflict that is first and foremost political and where demands of people need to be heard,” she said.
In its 2012 human rights report, the U.S. State Department said the most serious human rights problems in South Sudan were security force abuses, including extra-judicial killings, torture, rape, intimidation, and other inhumane treatment of civilians as well as the lack of access to justice.