WASHINGTON - A couple dozen South Sudanese demonstrators and political activists, some aligned with the SPLM in Opposition (SPLM-IO), gathered in front of the White House Monday to protest the ongoing war in their native country.
About 25 protesters chanted “People of South Sudan are dying,” and “We need peace in South Sudan.”
Speaking in Arabic, Elizabeth James, a protester from Tennessee, said time is running out to act on South Sudan.
“Let us not leave this search for peace in the hands of the government and the rebels,” she said. “They will take their own time because of what, because of their own personal interest.”
James drove nine hours to make Monday’s protest, saying it was her duty to voice her concerns.
“And where are we the citizens of South Sudan? Every day we are dying, everyday we are hungry, everyday we are scattered, everyday we go to other countries,” James said.
The protesters held signs and wore shirts that read “President Trump will make South Sudan great again,” while other signs targeted the African trade bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) saying “IGAD has failed and (is) too corrupt to bring peace to South Sudan.”
Isaac Gang, opposition party representative to the United States and a protest organizer, said IGAD has a chance to turn things around as they organize the upcoming peace talks.
“I really believe if the stakeholders in South Sudan take advantage of (the high level revitalization forum) something good can come out of it,” said Gang. “But if we go back to the usual intransigence people will use this opportunity as a waste of time as opposed to an opportunity to bring peace.”
The talks are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In September, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Malek Reuben Riak Rengu, former SPLA deputy chief of defense for logistics, former army chief Paul Malong Awan and Information Minister Michael Makuei.
In February, the U.S. State Department issued a domestic arms restriction on South Sudan, barring arms transfers to the country. The ban has little practical effect, since the United States does not sell weapons to the country. But the ban does prevents any U.S. company or citizen from providing military equipment or defense services to the country's warring factions.
Protester Choul Lieth agrees with the State Department’s move to impose sanctions.
“The sanctions (Trump) imposed on those oil companies is great for the people of South Sudan. Also the individual sanctions will help the people of South Sudan because these people are the ones destroying South Sudan and if they are being sanctioned and they cannot move around or they cannot make any business then the people of South Sudan will have a chance for peace,” said Lieth.