S.Sudan Says UN Sanctions Would Hamper Peace Process

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, March 4, 2015

United Nations sanctions aimed at bringing an end to South Sudan's civil war would be counterproductive if imposed, the country's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

"Any sanctions imposed on South Sudan will not only hinder the peace process but will inherently be felt by our countrymen and women down to the very basic level," Barnaba Marial Benjamin said in a statement.

"We need to remove obstacles obstructing peace not create new ones," he said.

On Tuesday the UN Security Council unanimously passed a US-drafted resolution outlining a sanctions regime that would allow for worldwide travel bans and asset freezes for "spoilers" of the peace process and a possible arms embargo. However, no sanctions have actually been imposed.

South Sudan's conflict began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir Mayardit accused his then-deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup.

Over two dozen armed forces — including government soldiers and allied militia backed by Ugandan soldiers on one side, and a range of rebel factions on the other — have been battling it out for the last 14 months.

Fighting quickly spread from the capital Juba. Tens of thousands have been killed, one in six have been forced from their homes and millions more have been pushed to the edge of starvation.

Peace talks, brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional block, got underway within weeks of the outbreak of conflict but have only resulted in a series of broken ceasefires and empty promises. IGAD sanctions have been threatened but not imposed.

Kiir and Machar went to the Ethiopian capital earlier this week for the latest round of talks. IGAD has set March 5 as the latest deadline for a final peace agreement.

Despite the lack of progress in peace talks, the continued fighting, suffering and destruction Benjamin struck an optimistic tone in his call for sanctions not to be imposed.

"Our struggle for growth and prosperity is only just beginning," he insisted. "We've fought long and hard to get where we are."

The UN estimates that 2.5 million people are in a state of emergency or crisis, meaning they are just steps short of famine.

No overall death toll for the war has been kept by the government, rebels or the UN, but the International Crisis Group estimates that at least 50,000 people have been killed.

Earning a reputation as slow talkers and hard drinkers, the South Sudanese delegations at previous European Union-funded talks held in luxury hotels in Ethiopia have already cost at least $22 million, according to diplomatic sources, with little to show in terms of reaching an agreement.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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