By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan’s Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk and Cabinet Affairs Minister Martin Elia Lomuro have been sanctioned by the United States government for their role in perpetuating and fomenting conflict to cement the political status quo, fueling South Sudan’s war economy.
President Salva Kiir’s key duo were sanctioned by Trump administration for what it describes as “expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan including by obstructing the reconciliation process or peace talks.”
The U.S. Treasury Department announced on Monday in its latest move to pressure the country’s politicians to form a unity government.
The two senior ministers were first blacklisted by president Trump’s administration in 2017 and are now to be considered for sanctions by the UN Security Council for their role in perpetuating the conflict by obstructing the peace process, Treasury said in a statement the sanctions freeze any U.S. assets held by the officials and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.
The country gained independence from Sudan following decades of scorched – earth war from Sudan in 2011, but less than two years, the civil war broke out in oil – producing South Sudan in late – 2013. The five-year plus conflict has killed an estimated 400,000 people, uprooted over 4 million people both internally and externally from their homes, triggered a famine and created Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The latest sanctions come as Washington is reevaluating its relationship with South Sudan after President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar agreed in November to give themselves more time to form a unity government.
“We are designating two cabinet-ranking officials in the South Sudanese government for their role in inhibiting political unification, expanding the conflict, and profiting from South Sudan’s war economy,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Justin Muzinich said in prepared remarks for a speech to non-government organizations (NGOs) and financial institutions on Monday.
Muzinich announced the action at the Partnership to Combat Human Rights Abuse and Corruption, where he said NGOs had provided documented findings that helped support Monday’s designations.
In a statement issued on Monday, the Treasury department specifically allegedly accuses Defense Minister Kuol Manyang of failing “to remove military forces from the battlefield as agreed; fomented up violence with rival tribes’ and preparing militias for possibility of renewed violence.
Treasury notes that Cabinet Affairs Minister Elia allegedly accuses of recruiting and organizing local militias to conduct attacks against opposition forces in South Sudan.
Elia and Kuol are also said to have allegedly perpetuated the conflict in South Sudan for their enrichment.
After the devastating years of civil war, president Kiir and opposition leader Machar, including other opposition groups signed a revitalized peace deal in September 2018 to form the unity government by Nov. 12, under pressure from the United Nations, the United States and regional governments. But days before the deadline, the two leaders agreed to give themselves an extension of 100 days to complete the outstanding issues impede the pre – transitional period such as security arrangements and the number and boundaries of the states.
“A little over 30 days into the extended pre-transition period, the United States has yet to see concrete steps by the GoSS to create the political and security conditions conducive to formation of a unity government and adequate implementation of the peace deal,” notes the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The Trump administration also affirmed that it will continue stands, to apply pressure on the senior leadership of South Sudan to take concrete measures to bring peace and stability to the country.
“The United States stands by the people of South Sudan who continue to suffer under this political instability that has led to thousands of deaths. The South Sudanese deserve leaders who are committed to laying the groundwork for a successful, peaceful political transition,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Justin Muzinich.
Meanwhile, John Prendergast, the Co-Founder of The Sentry, a U.S-based lobby group welcomed the targeted sanctions.
“These actions by the Treasury Department are a critical signal to the warring parties that the usual obstruction of the peace process is no longer acceptable,” said Prendergast.
Prendergast further encouraged the U.S to build more significant leverage ahead of the February deadline and called on the international community to increase the pressure on any spoilers if upcoming negotiations fail to generate progress on the issue of the number and boundaries of State borders or other contentious questions.
“The United States and Europe should use targeted financial measures accompanied by a diplomatic surge to sway the calculations of South Sudanese officials across the political divide,” he added.
Treasury, however, says the sanctions are not permanent since they are “intended to bring about a positive change of behavior.”
The removal of sanctions is available for persons…who take concrete and meaningful actions to form a unity government in line with the agreed-upon terms of the peace agreement, refuse to take part in human rights violations or abuse, speak out against abuses committed by both the government and opposition, and combat corruption in and related to South Sudan,” reads the statement.
Juba regime says sanctions are not helping in the implementation of the deal rather than it’s actually creating more suffering for the people of South Sudan.
Deng Dau, country’s foreign affairs deputy minister said sanctions are not effective to the peace deal but may disrupt ongoing efforts and commitments to end the country’s conflict.
“The sanctions are not helpful particularly at this time,” said Deng, adding that the ceasefire deal has been respected and honored since it was inked in 2017.
He further calls upon Trump’s administration to halt sanctions and to help in implementing a fragile peace deal.
Of recently, president Trump administration sanctioned five South Sudanese intelligence officials, including travel restrictions and asset freeze, accusing them for having instigated the kidnapping of two Kiir’s critics in Kenyan capital, Nairobi in 2017.
Specifics Imposes Sanctions
Cabinet Affairs Minister Martin Elia Lomuro
Martin Elia Lomuro (Lomuro), along with Michael Makuei Lueth, whom OFAC sanctioned in September 2017, were reportedly instrumental to Kiir’s initial unwillingness to sign a peace agreement in August 2015.
In late 2016, Lomuro stated that the GoSS would never allow the arrival of additional peacekeepers, which it had initially promised to accept, planning to negotiate the specifics of the deployment once the issue was dropped.
Lomuro, along with Kuol Manyang Juuk, has been identified as a key minister opposing the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, which the parties committed to establish to investigate and try those responsible for war crimes and other serious crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence, since December 2013.
As of late 2019, Lomuro and another South Sudanese government official were reportedly responsible for actively recruiting and organizing local militias used to conduct attacks against opposition forces in South Sudan.
Lomuro is being designated for being responsible for or complicit in or having engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan or obstructing reconciliation or peace talks or processes.
Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk
In 2017, a group of senior South Sudanese officials led by Kuol Manyang Juuk (Juuk) decided to use Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) troops, artillery, and other heavy weapons to strengthen local fighters against a rival tribe.Juuk reportedly admitted that he had mobilized the SPLA to take part in attacks against the rival as it was his duty to protect his tribe.
Juuk, along with Lomuro, has been identified as a key minister opposing the Hybrid Court for South Sudan. As of late 2018, Juuk and other senior South Sudanese government officials were overseeing an effort to train tribal militias to prepare for the possibility of renewed violence upon the return of Machar to South Sudan.
Juuk is being designated for being responsible for or complicit in or having engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan or obstructing reconciliation or peace talks or processes.