South Sudan said Thursday the U.N. Security Council’s decision to impose sanctions on military commanders on both sides of the country's 19-month-old conflict could derail the slow-moving peace process, if it has any impact at all.
"For the U.N. to insist on sanctions, I think is not going to be a helpful thing," said foreign ministry spokesman Mawien Makol Arik.
"This country doesn’t need sanctions. What this country needs is support from the region, from the international community so that we come up with a peaceful solution, as soon as possible, to alleviate the suffering of the people of South Sudan," he said.
The U.N. Security Council announced Wednesday it is imposing travel bans and asset freezes on six South Sudanese military commanders who, it says, have perpetuated the conflict in the world's newest nation.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said the sanctions demonstrate that "those who commit atrocities and undermine peace will face consequences."
The three government commanders sanctioned by the U.N. are Major-General Marial Chanuong Yol Mangok, Lieutenant-General Gabriel Jok Riak and Major-General Santino Deng Wol. The three rebel commanders sanctioned are Major-General Simon Gatwech Dual, Major-General James Koang Chuol and Major-General Peter Gadet.
The United States, European Union and Canada imposed targeted sanctions on South Sudanese military leaders last year. Gadet has been sanctioned four times.
Fighting goes on
The fighting in South Sudan erupted in December 2013 and has continued in spite of the international community imposing sanctions on military leaders.
Simon Monoja Lubang, a professor of social and economic studies at Juba University, said sanctions will have no impact on the military commanders.
“In the first place, these commanders or warlords do very little traveling outside the areas of their operations," Monoja said.
"Number two, I don’t think they have any assets outside. Even bank accounts in South Sudan, they may not be having them. They only operate with cash money," he said.
Sanction Kiir and Machar
Instead of targeting military leaders, Monoja said the Security Council should impose sanctions on President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, the leader of the main opposition group fighting Mr. Kiir's government.
Montage of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (L) and former vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar
"I am really wondering why the U.N. is only targeting the commanders or the so-called war lords. They are only receiving their command directives from their political leadership. To me, the thing should go up to those who actually are giving them protection and commands," he said.
The fighting in South Sudan has dragged on for nearly 19 months, claiming at least 10,000 lives and displacing more than two million people.
With most of the fighting concentrated in the oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile, the heavily oil-dependent economy has also been hit as production of the commodity that provides the government with nearly all its revenues has fallen sharply.