The American ambassador to South Sudan, returning to Juba after being recalled, warned on Wednesday that his country would not hesitate to impose new sanctions if Washington is not satisfied with the progress of the discussions for the formation of a union government.
« Sanctions are one of the tools we have (…), and we will use them, » said Ambassador Thomas Hushek during a press conference in Juba.
Since the signing of a peace agreement in September 2018, fighting has declined significantly in South Sudan, but President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar have failed to materialize some crucial provisions of the agreement, including the number regional states within the country as well as the layout of their borders.
In this context, the formation of a government of national unity, initially scheduled for May, was postponed for the first time to November 12. Then a new deadline of 100 days was granted to the two rivals, during a meeting in Uganda bringing together regional partners (Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, in particular).
« Throughout this process, deadlines have been missed, » said the ambassador, saying that the United States « really wants to see the transition happen. »
Faced with these delays, the United States, one of the sponsors of the independence of South Sudan, has lost patience. They had called back their ambassador at the end of November to “re-examine” their relationship with South Sudan and seem to want to increase the pressure on the protagonists.
On Monday, they imposed targeted financial sanctions on the South Sudanese ministers of defense and government affairs, accused of “obstructing” the return of peace, the head of the American diplomacy, Mike Pompeo, threatening to “take of other measures against those who want to prolong the conflict ”.
“A question of political will”
« The way to avoid further sanctions is to keep the peace process moving, » said Hushek. « And if those targeted by sanctions show a change in attitude and become supporters and protectors of peace, those sanctions can be lifted. »
Messrs. Kiir and Machar, who are in talks in Juba, pledged on Tuesday to form a new government in the time available, ensuring that if unresolved issues remain, the new government will have to deal with them.
« There is no shortage of external support to encourage South Sudan to start on the right path, » the UN representative in South Sudan, Alan Shearer, insisted on Wednesday before the United Nations Security Council. United.
« The choices that South Sudanese leaders will make now will determine the future of the country for generations to come. »
« It is a question of political will, » said Shearer, noting that several questions remain unanswered, including the status of Riek Machar, who lives in exile in Khartoum under house arrest and has yet to be handed over a South Sudanese passport.
South Sudan sank into civil war in 2013, two years after its independence from Sudan, when Mr. Kiir, a Dinka, accused Mr. Machar, his former vice-president, a member of the Nuer ethnic group, of foment a coup. The conflict has killed more than 380,000 people.