A top South Sudan diplomat in the United States calls the U.S. review of South Sudan assistance a step backward for peace negotiations.
Ambassador Gordon Buay, the charge d'affaires of South Sudan's embassy in Washington, said Tuesday's strongly worded White House statement on South Sudan could have unintended consequences.
"This one is sending the wrong signal to the rebels. The White House position will embolden the opposition, because why would the opposition keep talking to the government?" Buay told VOA's South Sudan in Focus radio program.
The White House statement said that "the government of South Sudan has lost credibility, and the United States is losing patience." The White House also accused South Sudan's government leaders of squandering Juba's partnership with the U.S. by pilfering the wealth of South Sudan and killing its own people.
The statement said the U.S. would initiate a comprehensive review of its assistance programs to South Sudan, namely the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission and other mechanisms that support the 2015 peace agreement.
The White House statement also said any elections held under the current conditions would be a sham and unacceptable.
Avoid threats, US told
South Sudan's Minister of Cabinet Affairs Martin Elia Lomuro said Wednesday that the United States should engage in talks with the Salva Kiir administration and avoid making threats against the government.
Lomuro accused the U.S. and other members of the international community of favoring the rebels, while putting all the blame for the continued fighting and atrocities committed in the country on the government.
"The mistake people have made, especially the U.S. and other countries ... is that they don't appreciate what actually happened. They are not able to ask precisely who was the culprit, and they have, therefore, taken sides," Lomuro told VOA.
Lomuro insisted that the Transitional Government of National Unity is inclusive, noting some former detainees serve in the government.
"John Lok is a member of the Council of Ministers; he is the minister of transport. Biar Madut is a member of parliament," Lomuro said. He also noted that the foreign affairs minister, former detainee Deng Alor Kuol, was absent but would resume his position upon his return.
Mark Weinberg, public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Juba, disagreed, saying the current government does not represent all signatories to the 2015 peace deal.
"The leaders of South Sudan have wasted their partnership with the United States and other international donors who supported this country for independence, have stolen the wealth of their own country, killed their own people and demonstrated over and over again their unwillingness to live up to their commitment to end the war and uphold their obligations to allow unimpeded humanitarian access," Weinberg said.
The promotion of U.N.-sanctioned individuals to top government positions — including General Jok Riak to be chief of defense forces — demonstrates Juba's disdain for international norms, according to the White House statement. Lomuro argues Jok has done nothing to deserve the sanctions.