By Patricia Zengerle*
WASHINGTON, Sept 7 (Reuters) – The United States does not believe Riek Machar, South Sudan’s former deputy president, should return to his former position in its government, given continuing instability in the country, Washington’s special envoy for South Sudan said on Wednesday.
Nearly three years ago political rivalry between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his former deputy Machar, a Nuer, sparked a civil war that has often followed ethnic lines.
The pair signed a shaky peace deal a year ago but fighting continues, including attacks on South Sudanese and foreign civilians. Machar has fled the country.
“Given all that has happened, we do not believe it would be wise for Machar to return to his previous position in Juba,” Special Envoy Donald Booth told a U.S. House of Representatives hearing.
“But this cannot become a justification for President Kiir to monopolize power and stifle dissenting political voices,” Booth testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa subcommittee.
Continuing instability and violence in the African country, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, has angered U.S. lawmakers. Several called during the hearing for international sanctions to be imposed on individuals blamed for the ongoing violence.
“There must be consequences for those who are found guilty,” said Representative Chris Smith, the subcommittee’s chairman.
Booth described growing anti-American sentiment in South Sudan. On July 7, soldiers fired on two vehicles carrying U.S. diplomats. No one was hurt because the vehicles were armored. South Sudan’s government promised an investigation.
Kiir and Machar would not work together to implement a peace agreement or set up security arrangements to prevent a return to fighting, and both lost control of their forces, Booth said.
He was also questioned about the possibility of a U.N. arms embargo against South Sudan.
On Sunday, the government of South Sudan agreed to accept 4,000 extra peacekeepers in a bid to avoid an arms embargo threatened by the United Nations Security Council.