The US-based crisis management group Enough Project said Wednesday’s U.N. Security Council sanctions against six military commanders from South Sudan are essential to combat what it called “the unchecked impunity that has come to define South Sudan’s political environment.”
The three generals and three rebel commanders are now subject to a global travel ban and an asset freeze for their role in perpetuating that country’s 19 month-old conflict.
Akshaya Kumar, the Sudan and South Sudan policy analyst for the Enough Project, said the sanctions are an important first step that would send a message of accountability and help forge an enabling environment for peace.
“This is an important step forward. It’s really the first multilateral evidence that we’ve seen of an attempt to hold people accountable for the gross human rights abuses that are taking place in South Sudan since December 2013. And so we applaud the Security Council for taking this decisive action,” she said.
The three government commanders sanctioned by the UN include Major-General Marial Chanuong Yol Mangok, Lieutenant-General Gabriel Jok Riak and Major-General Santino Deng Wol. The three rebel commanders are Major-General Simon Gatwech Dual, Major-General James Koang Chuol and Major-General Peter Gadet.
Enough Project, which aims to end genocide and crimes against humanity, said while the six commanders are individually responsible for the warring parties’ inability to reach a durable peace agreement, they nevertheless have been tied to grave human rights abuses and “indisputable violations” of previous ceasefire agreements.
Kumar said the sanctions are just the first step needed to construct the leverage that will be essential to creating an enabling environment for a just and lasting peace.
She said South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and former vice president and rebel leader Riek Machar are equally responsible for the inability to reach a peace deal that would end the conflict.
“We believe that those who bear the greatest responsibility for obstructing the peace and intransigence are the men who are sitting at the negotiating table. And so, if evidence is available to show that individuals, however high they are up the chair of command in South Sudan, if they are responsible for violations that merit sanctions, then, yes, they should be listed and named,” Kumar said.
The war has driven more than 2 million people from their homes and created a humanitarian crisis. Kumar said that up until now, it has been ordinary South Sudanese who have borne the brunt of the war.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said the sanctions demonstrate that "those who commit atrocities and undermine peace will face consequences.”
She said the U.S. and other Security Council members demand both the government and rebels cease offensive military action and commit to negotiating a peace deal.
South Sudanese officials have said that sanctions will not only hinder the peace process, but inherently be felt by the people of South Sudan.
“We need to remove obstacles obstructing peace, not create new ones,” said Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is currently working with leaders of South Sudan’s warring parties to find a lasting solution to the conflict.
Salva Kiir and Machar met last weekend in Nairobi and discussed issues blocking efforts to end the conflict, according to Pagan Amum, the re-instated secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.
Kumar said sanctions are an incredibly useful tool to push people to make important concessions at the negotiating table.
“Our view is that targeted asset freezes and travel bans could help forge an enabling environment for peace,” Kumar said.