The United States has pulled out of the systems that monitor the peace process in South Sudan because of the country's failure to meet reform milestones, the State Department said Friday.
South Sudan continues to face chronic instability even after rival leaders President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar agreed to form a unity government more than two years ago, following a conflict that left nearly 400,000 people dead from 2013 to 2018.
A transition period is set to end in February 2023, but many key provisions of the deal have not been met, including drafting a permanent constitution.
The United States cited that "lack of sustained progress" Friday as the reason for withdrawing from two peacekeeping organizations monitoring the impoverished country's path to implement the transition: the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) and the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM).
"South Sudan's leaders have not fully availed themselves of the support these monitoring mechanisms provide and have demonstrated a lack of political will necessary to implement critical reforms," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
The statement called out South Sudanese leaders' failure to establish a "unified, professional military"; to protect civil society members and journalists; and to enact necessary financial reforms.
The United States will continue to provide about $1 billion in humanitarian and development aid and in support to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), among other financial backing, the statement said.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission, one of the world's most expensive, was renewed for another year in March.
The U.N. has repeatedly criticized South Sudan's leadership for its role in stoking violence, cracking down on political freedoms and plundering public coffers, and has accused the government of rights violations amounting to war crimes over deadly attacks in the southwest last year.
South Sudan, one of the poorest countries on the planet despite large oil reserves, has faced a decade of instability from war, natural disaster, hunger, interethnic fighting and political bickering since it gained independence in 2011.