WASHINGTON - Opponents of South Sudan President Salva Kiir staged a protest outside the White House Tuesday to call for more sanctions against South Sudanese officials who are obstructing peace, and for the United States to pressure Mr. Kiir to step down.
"We come today to let America know we really need help. We need peace. We need the suffering to end," one of the protesters, Mary Gatluak, told South Sudan in Focus.
The group of around two dozen South Sudanese held hand-made protest banners and chanted slogans against Mr. Kiir and in favor of more sanctions.
The protesters called on U.S. President Barack Obama to declare President Kiir "illegitimate". They alleged that government forces massacred thousands of civilians in Juba in December 2013, based on their ethnicity. The government has denied the accusation, and insists that the ongoing uprising was triggered by a failed coup bid, led by former vice president Riek Machar.
Protesters say oil money fuels conflict
In a statement handed out at the demonstration, Reath Muoch Tang, the representative in the United States of Machar's rebel group, accused the government of using oil revenue to buy weapons "to continue the war."
Protester Peter Kuel said imposing more targeted sanctions on South Sudanese leaders would help to restore peace.
?"Without sanctions, they will do whatever they do ... because they know they have money," said Kuel. "If sanctions are imposed, peace will come."
The United States, European Union and Canada have already imposed targeted sanctions on a handful of South Sudanese military leaders, and the United Nations Security Council last month said it was mulling sanctions against "senior individuals'' deemed "responsible for actions or policies that threaten the peace, security or stability of South Sudan.''
Fighting erupted in the South Sudanese capital in mid-December 2013 and quickly spread around the country. Although no official death toll has been released for the violence, U.N. officials have said at least 10,000 people have died and two million have been displaced by the fighting.