U.S. imposes first sanctions on South Sudan

The sanctions targeted an army commander loyal to rebel leader Machar and the head of Kiir’s presidential guard

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The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on two people taking opposing sides in South Sudan’s ethnic violence, signaling Washington’s growing frustration with leaders in the African country.

The violence exploded between supporters of President Salva Kiir and those loyal to his former vice president, Riek Machar last December.

The sanctions were announced against Peter Gadet, an army commander loyal to Machar, and Major-General Marial Chanuong, head of Kiir’s presidential guard. They entail freezing any of their assets in the United States and blocking U.S. individuals or companies from dealing with them.

Thousands of people have been killed and at least one million have fled their homes since clashes erupted in the world’s newest nation, which the U.S. had helped create in 2011.

“We’re using [sanctions] in a limited way against two individuals ... that we think are fairly significant, both of whom have blood on their hands,” a U.S. official told reporters on condition of anonymity, Reuters reported.

Chanuong led the operations last December in the South Sudanese city of Juba, as his troops slaughtered hundreds of civilians, U.S. officials said.

While Gadet commanded troops responsible for violent clashes which killed at least 200 civilians in the oil-rich northern town of Bentiu in April, according to the officials.

“We believe today’s actions are significant, but also are a signal to any of those who would consider, or who are already contributing, to violence on either side in South Sudan,” the official added.

The U.S. announced Monday it expected to impose sanctions on individuals on opposing sides of the conflict, as a warning to curb the violence which could spiral into genocide, according to United Nations’ officials.

“The measures taken against Marial Chanuong and Peter Gadet are only a first step and should serve as a clear warning to those in the government of South Sudan and those who have taken up arms against it: the United States is determined to hold accountable those who choose violence,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said in a statement, Reuters reported.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry also threatened sanctions against South Sudan’s rebel leader Machar if he rejected peace negotiations. On Tuesday, Machar said he would “try his best” to make it for peace talks with President Kiir.

In addition to Washington’s sanctions, members of the U.N. Security Council are also considering targeted U.N. measures.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is lobbying other countries to impose targeted sanctions, including Kenya and Uganda, countries where many South Sudanese own houses and properties.

(With Reuters)

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