US imposes sanctions on 3 senior South Sudan officials

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South Sudan's ousted army chief Paul Malong addresses the media after returning to the South Sudan's capital of Juba, May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

The US government has imposed targeted sanctions on two senior government officials of South Sudan and the country’s former army chief over their roles in the conflict plaguing the East African nation.

The US Department of Treasury announced that all assets belonging to South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Leuth, Deputy Defense chief Malek Reuben and the sacked army Chief Paul Malong, in the United States have been frozen and further banned from entering the United States.

The Donald Trump Administration also sanctioned three companies that are owned or controlled by one of those individuals.

“The measures taken today against Malek Reuben, Michael Makuei Lueth, and Paul Malong Awan make clear that the US government will impose consequences on those who expand the conflict and derail peace efforts,” the US Department of State said in a statement issued on Wednesday night.

The sanctions came less than a week after the senior aid official in the Trump administration revealed that Washington is considering reviewing its assistance to the war-torn country.

Washington said it has released a financial crimes enforcement network advisory alerting US financial institutions on the possibility that certain South Sudanese senior political figures may try to use the US financial system to move or hide proceeds of public corruption.

“The United States stands ready to impose other measures against those responsible for undermining the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan,” it said.

“As the Advisory demonstrates, the United States is committed to increasing scrutiny on those who enrich themselves through corruption while the South Sudanese people suffer through economic hardship and a dire humanitarian crisis,” Washington added.

South Sudan has been devastated by more than three years of civil war that erupted in December 2013 following wrangles within the ruling political party.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the warring parties under intense pressure from the international community that led to formation of unity government in April 2016 was shattered again in July the same year as rival forces belonging to the President Slava Kiir and his former deputy clashed in the capital, Juba.

The conflict has created one of the world’s fastest growing humanitarian crisis as six million people face life-threatening hunger while more than four million people have been displaced from their homes, including two million refugees, according to the UN.

The Trump Administration said the crisis is man-made and tasked the government of South Sudan to end hostilities, stop the harassment of aid workers, cooperate with the UN and exert efforts to support the revitalization of the stalled peace pact.

“We continue to make clear to South Sudan’s leaders that they must honor their declared ceasefire, revive the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan by engaging meaningfully with opposition parties, bring an end to atrocities, stop the harassment of aid workers, stem human rights abuses, cooperate fully with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, and take action against corruption,” the United States said.

“We urge all parties to engage constructively and seriously in the upcoming Intergovernmental Authority on Development High-Level Revitalization Forum for the South Sudan peace process,” it added.