News / Africa

    US Threat of South Sudan Sanctions Not a Hollow Warning, Envoy Says

    US Special Envoy to South Sudan and Sudan Donald Booth says Washington "will take action" against those who continue to obstruct peace.
    US Special Envoy to South Sudan and Sudan Donald Booth says Washington "will take action" against those who continue to obstruct peace.
    U.S. Special Envoy to South Sudan and Sudan Donald Booth says Washington's threat to slap sanctions on anyone violating human rights or obstructing the peace process in South Sudan is not just a hollow warning but will be put into action unless the warring sides in the young country stop fighting and respect a peace deal.

    "As I have continually warned, for those who continue to obstruct the peace process, we will take action," Booth told South Sudan in Focus in an interview.

    President Barack Obama signed an executive order nearly two weeks ago, clearing the way for U.S. visa bans and the seizure of assets held by anyone found to be stoking violence, violating human rights and blocking efforts to end the conflict in South Sudan.

    The executive order was necessary, Booth said, because a cessation of hostilities agreement signed in late January has been repeatedly violated.

    "Over the two months since that agreement was signed, there has been constant fighting, constant violations of that agreement," Booth said.

    "That's one of the reasons why...we have moved forward with President Obama signing the executive order -- to try to convince the parties that have not respected the agreement that they have signed, to do so." he said.

    The executive order should not be looked at as a threat of punishment, but as "an incentive -- a carrot, if you will -- to those who are trying to do the right thing," Booth said.

    "This gives them some additional room for maneuver, gives them some leverage over those who would obstruct trying to move forward and honoring the cessation of hostilities agreement," Booth said.
     
    Deteriorating conditions in a war zone

    South Sudan's Minister in the Office of the President, Awan Riak, said during a visit to Washington last week that "there is a need for the U.S. as a midwife of the birth of the country of South Sudan, not to abandon us at this time and say it is punishing (us)."

    "If there is anything we need most, it is support, not just punishing us," Riak said.
    South Sudanese Minister in the Office of the President, Awan Riak, speaking at a panel discussion on the crisis in South Sudan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. on April 9, 2014.South Sudanese Minister in the Office of the President, Awan Riak, speaking at a panel discussion on the crisis in South Sudan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. on April 9, 2014.
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    South Sudanese Minister in the Office of the President, Awan Riak, speaking at a panel discussion on the crisis in South Sudan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. on April 9, 2014.
    South Sudanese Minister in the Office of the President, Awan Riak, speaking at a panel discussion on the crisis in South Sudan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. on April 9, 2014.


    Both the opposition and government have said they are not worried by the threat of U.S. sanctions, insisting that it is the other side that has been violating the ceasefire agreement while they have been trying to restore peace.

    The two sides are set to resume peace talks in the Ethiopian capital at the end of this month, after a three-week recess.

    During that time, the United Nations has sounded the alarm that famine could hit South Sudan, as the ongoing fighting prevents farmers in parts of the country from planting crops and forces thousands of South Sudanese to flee their homes and farms.

    The U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) has warned that 50,000 South Sudanese children could die of hunger this year unless the international community steps up with more aid for the young country.

    And at an urgent meeting in Washington at the weekend, top humanitarian officials from the United States, the United Nations and European Union warned that they have already seen the first signs of famine in South Sudan.
    Empty tins litter the ground at the looted compound of an aid agency in Malakal, South Sudan.Empty tins litter the ground at the looted compound of an aid agency in Malakal, South Sudan.
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    Empty tins litter the ground at the looted compound of an aid agency in Malakal, South Sudan.
    Empty tins litter the ground at the looted compound of an aid agency in Malakal, South Sudan.


    Humanitarian aid 'frustrated'


    Booth said the delivery of humanitarian assistance in South Sudan has been "frustrated," with aid workers threatened and harassed, life-saving shipments confiscated, and aid supplies looted -- in spite of the fact that the warring sides agreed in the cessation of hostilities agreement to allow humanitarian workers unimpeded access to people in need.

    The best way to ensure that South Sudan is not hit by famine and major disease outbreaks, on top of the four-month-old conflict, would be "to stop the fighting," Booth said.

    "The fighting continues to displace South Sudanese, the fighting continues to put those South Sudanese who have been displaced, as well as many others, at grave risk of not only disease but potentially - in some areas of the country - of famine," Booth said.

    "We do not want to see the people of South Sudan face famine or major disease outbreaks. We want to try to get a handle on this... We need to get the fighting stopped, we need to get the cessation of hostilities respected, including the delivery of humanitarian assistance," he said.
     
    Booth said Riak's visit to Washington was a step in the right direction.

    "We had very fruitful and constructive discussions on ways forward, to try to bring about an end to the fighting and to try to bring about a true political process that will address the underlying issues in South Sudan," Booth said.

    He also praised the unstinting efforts by East African bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to broker a peace deal between the warring sides in South Sudan.
     


    US working 'closely with IGAD'


    The United States is working "very closely with IGAD to figure out a way" to deploy a regional force that would work with and protect verification teams who have been tasked with monitoring and reporting on any violations of the January cessation of hostilities agreement, the U.S. diplomat said.

    "The priority is to bring about an end to the fighting so that the South Sudanese can start a true political dialogue on how to put their country back together," Booth said.

    The headquarters for verification teams have been set up in Juba; teams are already in place in Bor and Bentiu, the capitals of Jonglei and Unity states, and another verification unit is set to be deployed in Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile state. 

    Thousands of people have fled all three towns, which have seen heavy fighting as government and opposition forces have fought for control of them.

    But the driving reason behind the United States' commitment to peace in South Sudan remains its desire to "to bring about an end to the suffering of the people," Booth said.
     
    "The best way to help them right now is to focus on bringing about an end to the fighting and to get the political discussion to establish South Sudan on a firm footing" that will prevent the world's newest nation from boiling over into "conflicts like this" in the future and will give the people of South Sudan real hopes for "a much brighter future for their children," Booth said. 

    Listen to the entire interview by clicking on the link below.
     

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Deng from: juba
    April 15, 2014 12:04 PM
    What do GOSS want, they are not part of community of nations. I dont see anyone who is responsible in goverment or with the rebles. I think UN should administer south sudan then we have elections or else people of south sudan will suffer.

    by: Ghai from: east africa
    April 15, 2014 11:56 AM
    why United state allies killing and looting south Sudanese in the name of unfounded coup by all Government and Institution including united and united state is not condemn this evil action. and supporting them formation of protection and deterring force to protect the oil field . is it to deter innocent south Sudanese and those talk of democracy? Mr Booth have interest in this fight he should not be allow by the united state to lead this negotiation him (booth ) kiir Moseveni of uganda are one in this plan of killing and looting south Sudanese.

    by: Ghai from: east africa
    April 15, 2014 11:46 AM
    Booth is unfair in south Sudan conflict.if any one want to know please contact me on the e-mail above.

    by: Bol from: Bor
    April 15, 2014 10:00 AM
    The US should give South Sudanese peoples, a space. The US is not a friend here, BUT an evil. The US is going to be fought very badly by South Sudanese for its game it is playing on South Sudanese Our people didn't move away from the evil arab North, only to be re-colonised by another criminals in the US, UK or France. South Sudanese people do not want any white man who would want to come to our country as usual benign Europeans we always know---;evil white people.

    The Europeans and arabs are like snakes or 'anyueth thok', known as forget me not in English. This weed attaches its self onto the sheep and even some parts of the goats during their grazing and when they are home, the sheep and goats have gathers 'anyueth thok' weeds on their bodies. And you herder has to remove 'anyueth thok' on the sheep and goat bodies. The Europeans and Americans have gone too far, the US and European war in South Sudan and they will get it. They are not wanted in South Sudan.

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