, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – The US government has called on Kenya and other East African nations to impose sanctions on those hindering the South Sudan peace process.
US Special Envoy to South Sudan Susan Page said such action would be more effective than the sanctions placed on four government and rebel generals by the US as the majority of their assets and families were situated in Kenya and surrounding countries.
“The assets for most of the South Sudanese whether they’re government or Opposition are right here. They’re here in Kenya… they are in Uganda; they are in Ethiopia so of course we believe that it would have much more of an impact on the people fighting if the region would impose sanctions against people who are hindering the peace process,” she explained.
Page and US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Anne Richard also criticised South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar for lacking the “seriousness” to bring the 14-month conflict to an end.
“I must stress that the United States is tremendously disappointed that the South Sudanese Government and the Opposition failed to reach a final peace agreement during last week’s IGAD Summit. What we were told yesterday is that we should be patient to achieve peace. I think many of us are impatient because we know that the people of South Sudan are suffering without peace,” Richard stated.
Page said the rival factions instead took a step back at the IGAD Summit by disowning what they had previously agreed on as regards the sharing of power during the agreed transition period.
She also said that reiterating a commitment to a cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed a year ago but remained not fully implemented was not enough and did not inspire hope.
“They have to realise that this is about the people of South Sudan and not about who gets what position in government,” she chided.
Richard also raised concern over the “harassment of aid workers” by both sides who had erected road blocks that hampered the movement of aid convoys.
“We heard before how delivery of humanitarian assistance was not facilitated by authorities. So I had hoped those days were behind us during this emergency time. So it’s dispiriting to hear that there are road blocks,” she said.
The US on Monday announced that it would provide an additional $273 million in aid meant to help the South Sudanese people cope with famine and displacement.
“That brings our total contribution since this conflict began in December of 2013 to $1 billion. Can you imagine how far South Sudan would be if it were development assistance?” she posed.
Richard who has been in Kenya since Sunday for a high-delegation meeting on the South Sudan crisis however declined to comment on the suspended clause of the anti-terror law that deals with refugees explaining that it was a matter before the courts.
She did however comment on the section of the law that seeks to restrict their movement saying the US supports a system that allows them to live as close to a normal life as possible.
The amendment to the Kenya Refugee Act states that there can be no more than 150,000 refugees at any one time. Currently there are 600,000.
This has raised concern among humanitarian organisations that it could lead to refoulement and Kenya would in essence be contravening international law regarding refugees.
The next round of South Sudan peace talks are to take place on February 20.