Speaking to a top South Sudan official, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Juba government has to put an end to the fighting in the country, with the State Department sternly warning against sanctions should fighting continue.
“We will not stand by while the hopes of a nation are held hostage to short-sighted and destructive actors,” Kerry was quoted as saying in his meeting with Awan Riak, South Sudan minister of the office of president. The State Department prepared a statement on Kerry’s meeting, saying that President Barack Obama recently authorized potential sanctions against anyone who would commit human rights abuses or pose a threat to peace and democracy in South Sudan. The country, which was declared as independent from Sudan three years ago, has been in the throes of a civil war since December 2013, with thousands of individuals having been killed and over a million others having been displaced. The civil war was triggered in mid-December following a power struggle between President Salva Kiir’s government and a rebel faction led by Riek Machar, the country’s former Vice President.
In the four months or so since the war started, attempts at peace talks have been unsuccessful thus far, and have served as a pain point for South Sudan’s Western supporters, who have persistently tried to convince both the government and the rebels to come to a ceasefire. Relief agencies, in addition, have made certain concerns clear, saying that both parties have expressed suspicion of relief efforts from organizations such as the U.N. Furthermore, the civil war has been harmful to the country’s oil production, which serves as one of South Sudan’s biggest revenue sources.
Prior to his meeting with South Sudan officials, Kerry was scored by lawmakers who believed that he has been sticking his finger into too many figurative pies, but not getting results commensurate to his efforts. But in his defense, Kerry said that his efforts have indeed been ambitious, and were, at the end of the day, better than him not doing anything. “Sure, we may fail. And you want to dump it on me? I may fail. I don’t care. It’s worth doing. It’s worth the effort,” said Kerry in an appearance Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as he enumerated his efforts in South Sudan and other African locations. “We’ve helped negotiate a truce in South Sudan and helped pull that country back from the brink of civil war. We’ve helped to create a framework for the disarming of M23 in the Great Lakes region of Africa. We are engaged in helping the French to quell the Boko Haram and other people in the region of Mali and elsewhere.”