Women march carrying placards with messages demanding peace and their rights, on the streets of South Sudan's capital, Juba on July 13, 2018.
Women march carrying placards with messages demanding peace and their rights, on the streets of South Sudan's capital, Juba on July 13, 2018.

JUBA - The South Sudan government on Monday criticized a White House statement that condemned South Sudan’s move to extend the government’s mandate by another three years and demanded the country’s leaders be sincere as they negotiate a peace agreement.

In a statement released Sunday by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the U.S. called on South Sudanese leaders to commit to negotiations that include civil society, church, women and other groups that have been excluded. The statement said a “narrow agreement between elites” will only “sow the seeds of another cycle of conflict.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls on a member of the media during the daily press briefing at the White House, July 18, 2018, in Washington.

The White House statement said President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar have not shown the leadership required to bring “genuine peace” to the country, and that the U.S. “would not be a guarantor, a funder or an advocate for additional U.N. resources to support the transitional government if the leaders do not show a commitment to peace, good governance and financial accountability.”

Sanders also warned in her statement that additional sanctions are on the table for persons “engaged in corrupt activity” or for those who threaten the country’s peace.

In this July 7, 2018 photo, former Vice President
In this July 7, 2018 photo, former Vice President of South Sudan Riek Machar, left, greets South Sudan President Salva Kiir as Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, center, looks on as they gather for a security meeting.

The South Sudan government Monday criticized the White House statement, saying it is the kind rebuke that should never be directed to a U.S. ally like South Sudan. 

In an exclusive interview with "South Sudan In Focus," South Sudan Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Mawien Makol described the statement as unhelpful and harsh.

“We need the language which is supporting this kind of commitment and I think this is what the U.S. should be doing, urging us to really continue to doing what we are really doing, but it will not derail us from our commitment,” Makol said.

Makol strongly denied that South Sudan’s negotiators meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, were preparing to sign a peace-sharing agreement that is not inclusive.

“They have to come in here with details about the lack of commitment they are talking about, because we are seeing these men are sitting together, laughing together and demonstrating that they can work together, so what else can you say about this kind of commitment?” Makol told South Sudan in Focus.

Makol said the Kiir administration is well aware of the suffering the conflict has caused on innocent civilians and will work with the rebels and other opposition groups to restore peace and stability.

But he said the White House statement has tarnished the image of his government.

“It shows to the world that the government is not committed, when you are committed to do something then somebody comes and say that if you don’t do it then you will face this and that. That doesn’t help in the diplomatic arena,” Makol told VOA.

Violence broke out in South Sudan in late 2013 amid a political power struggle between President Kiir and Machar, who fled the country in 2015 when a fresh wave of fighting erupted in the capital Juba between government forces and Machar’s bodyguards. 

Last week, the U.S. pushed for and received a U.N. Security Council arms embargo. Juba condemned the resolution authorizing the embargo.