The United States delegation at the United Nations circulated a draft resolution this week to work out a possible, targeted sanctions against South Sudanese personalities seen to be impeding the peace process being mediated by IGAD in Ethiopia.This is a good step since previous warnings were mere lips-service meant to show us that something would be done. We still know that countries like China and Russia will oppose any possible sanctions against South Sudan given the way they present themselves as natural opponents of US’s indiscriminate wielding of power. While this resolution has a long way to go, it’s a needed step in the right direction because South Sudanese leaders have shown during this 10-month long war that they only care about power.
However, the most appalling thing is South Sudanese government’s response to the threats of sanctions. Dr. Marial Benjamin, the foreign affairs minister, argues that any sanctions would negatively affect the peace talks. What these leaders need to understand is that these sanctions aren’t going to be aimed at the whole nation to cripple whatever economic breathing space is left. These sanctions are merely targeted sanctions aimed at forcing naughty officials, both in the government and in opposition, to get their heads straight and start thinking about their people.No right-minded leader in any part of the world would impose economic sanctions on a country that’s teetering at the edge of famine. The sanctions will only be aimed at obstructers of the peace and at a possible ‘Arms Embargo’ in order to prevent the continued on-and-off war in the country.
I don’t know how the minister thinks these targeted sanctions would negatively affect the peace process. If the parties renege on their promises or refuse to negotiate because some of their officials have been sanctioned then such action would actually give impetus and authentic ground for the imposition of sanctions. These sanctions would not be imposed because United Nations Security Council fancies sanctions. The sanctions are a function of the intransient and insensitive attitude of South Sudanese leaders; leaders who see little rationale in alleviating the suffering of their own people.
Unless the minister believes the government is obstructing the peace process, I believe there’s nothing he should be worried about. The government made very reasonable concessions, however, it’s the final result that counts. If these concessions don’t bring peace to ease the suffering in the country then a lot needs to be done.It’s common knowledge that the rebels want to indirectly negotiate their way to power. That’s a reasonable concern; however, the two parties are locked in a meaningless power quest that leaves none of the parties blameless. Even more painful concessions need to be made to avoid the imposition of these sanctions.
President Kiir, being the head of the government, needs to take charge of the talks and stop giving us an impression that he’s incapable of bringing peace to South Sudan. In his recent interview with Qatar-based Aljazeera TV, the president sounded very pessimistic, helpless and unpresidential. He sounded like a clueless fellow just handed power and has no idea what to do with it.The president should be the voice of the people. He should be positive and come up with innovative strategies to bring peace to the country. The pessimism the president portrayed reflects so much what’s wrong with South Sudan. He should stop asking people to go an ask Riek Machar about the peace talks. Riek isn’t the president of South Sudan. We’d expect more from the president of the country.
I therefore believe that these sanctions are warranted to accelerate the signing of the peace agreement. If South Sudanese leaders don’t want sanctions then peace is the only way out.