The US has promised almost $90m (£60m) of extra aid to South Sudan but warned its newly reconciled leaders that failure to engage properly with thepeace process could result in sanctions or an arms embargo.
Arms embargo is a possibility if transitional government fails to deliver, says US envoy, as funds are promised for safe water, healthcare, food and shelter.
Hopes that the country’s two-year-long civil war may finally be drawing to an end rose this week after the former vice-president, Riek Machar, returned to the capital, Juba, to resume his role in a transitional government of national unity led by his opponent, President Salva Kiir.
South Sudan, which won independence from its northern neighbour in 2011, has been consumed by conflict since December 2013, when Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup.
The conflict split the country along broadly ethnic lines, pitting Kiir’s Dinka against Machar’s Nuer. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the fighting, more than 2 million displaced, and some parts of the country brought to the brink of famine. The fighting has also been marked by widespread atrocities that may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.
On Wednesday, the US – a key advocate of South Sudan’s independence which has provided an estimated $1.6bn of humanitarian assistance since December 2013, according to US State Department figures – announced more than $86m of additional aid.
The new funding is earmarked to provide safe drinking water, emergency healthcare, food, shelter and training to the most vulnerable families and communities.
But the US said it wanted to see a renewed commitment to the implementation of the peace agreement and a “fundamental shift” in the relationship with the humanitarian community.
“Specifically, we expect the transitional government to adhere to core humanitarian principles and to change past policy and practice to ensure aid reaches those in need without regard to ethnic or political discrimination,” the US State Department said.
“We furthermore expect the transitional government to take action to prevent the extortion, theft, and physical harm of aid workers. Leaders must also allow full freedom of movement for all civilians.”
Donald Booth, the US special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, warned that a failure to respect and implement the peace deal would have serious consequences.
“We have everything at the table: we are prepared to look at sanctions, we’re prepared to look at an arms embargo,” he said in remarks reported by Reuters.
It is not the first time the international community has threatened such measures– and Booth admitted that an arms embargo would only work if it were enforced by South Sudan’s neighbours.
The special envoy said the flow of weapons could be reduced by imposing strict controls on South Sudan’s capital expenditure, a move that would also help those people most in need.
“We all agree there are far too many arms in South Sudan and they certainly don’t need any more,” he said.
“If we can use the financial side to get at preventing additional weapons from getting into South Sudan, that would be an easier way to do it and a more effective way to do it.”
He said the US was also looking at who was responsible for the looting of state coffers in the oil-rich country.
“We really want to make sure that resources of the country are going to be utilised for the people, so we’re taking a careful look at what has been stolen in the past and who stole it,” he added.