As relations between South Sudan and United States (US) strained since the country’s independence in July 2011 from Sudan, South Sudanese government’s top diplomats however expressed optimism that the ties with the US as well as with other western countries would now grow stronger in response to the implementation of the peace agreement signed in August 2015 in the country.
South Sudan’s acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Peter Bashir Gbandi, Sunday said that the government hoped the implementation of the peace deal with the armed opposition faction led by former Vice President, Riek Machar, would make a significant difference in their relations with the region and western countries.
“We hope to improve our relations with our friends from Western nations, especially those from the troika countries which played a significant role in the mediation process. We appreciate their supports not only during this conflict but especially during our liberation struggle for the independence of this country,” Gbandai told Sudan Tribune.
“The people of United States of America, Norway, UK and many other countries in the region stood with the Movement (SPLM) and our people. This spirit should continue and we appeal to the United States in particular to continue to stand with our people and their government,” he appealed.
Minister Gbandi further revealed that he had over the past few days met and held bilateral meetings with foreign representatives in the country including diplomats from Troika countries to discuss the implementation of the August accord and humanitarian situation in the country.
He said President Salva Kiir was convinced that differences with Washington and other countries in the region, including neighbouring Sudan, could be solved with the help of high-level talks and sustained diplomatic engagements.
The Washington Post last Friday published an editorial criticizing the failure of President Salva Kiir and his designate First Vice-President Riek Machar to implement a peace agreement they signed since August 2015, and called on the UN Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on South Sudan “to prevent further atrocities against civilians”.
The influential newspaper said the warring leaders have “squandered American goodwill” and called on the American Administration to support this embargo
“The United Kingdom has endorsed it, and so should the United States. It may not be a perfect solution, and Russia remains opposed, but an arms embargo would send a blunt message that Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar need to hear: Patience with you has run out.”
A South Sudanese diplomat at its mission to Washington DC commended the government of the United States for what he described as strategic shift towards supporting implementation of peace agreement instead of sanctions.
Ambassador Gordon Buay told Sudan Tribune that US officials, including President Barrack Obama, had earlier advocated for sanctions to be imposed on South Sudan as a means to putting pressure on the two parties to reach compromising positions to end 21 months of violent conflict in the country.
He however observed that on Saturday during a briefing about general political and security situation in the country at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) by the special representative of the Secretary General of the UN and the Chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), the UNSC shifted towards supporting the implementation of the deal.
He said the briefing complimented commitments and readiness of the government to engage in serious negotiations with the western world, reduce the regional conflict and prioritize its economic recovery and the general well-being of its people rather than sanctions for which other countries continued to advocate for its imposition.
“There has been a remarkable development these days during the briefings on South Sudan at the Security Council. The United States did not make any comment when its opinion was sought. They said they have no opinion to make, which is an encouraging development. It shows that the government of the United States is ready and committed to support implementation of the peace agreement which is one of the points I have always emphasized in our interactions with American friends and the civil society organizations as well as members of the press about sanctions,” Buay claimed.
“I have always emphasized that what is needed now is a unified support to implement peace agreement. It is not sanctions because sanctions will complicate everything and the peace will not be implemented,” he said.
The diplomat explained that only two veto power permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations have continued to advocate for sanctions but Russia and China and other countries have indicated readiness to prioritize implementation of the peace agreement.
“What is important now is the support of the international community to the government and the SPLM-IO to implement peace, which is already moving on well. There have been positive developments taking place already. The SPLM-IO forces have started deploying to Juba and the government has welcomed them and gave places where they can stay,” he added.
He identified the two veto power member countries of the Security Council as France and United Kingdom as countries whose representatives at the Council are still advocating for sanctions.
“It is only France and United Kingdom which are the countries at the council still advocating for sanctions but the United States decided to make a strategic shift, which is an encouraging development,” he said.
He said US is a historical friend of South Sudan and commended its decision to support the implementation of the peace agreement.
Diplomatic relations between South Sudan and US strained due to accusations of human rights violations and resistance to democratic processes in the world’s youngest nation.