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South Sudan government soldiers
Image: Samir Bol/AFP/Getty Images

South Sudan critical of UN sanctions threat

Mark Caldwell
March 4, 2015

Peace talks have failed to end the conflict in South Sudan. Previous ceasefire deals have been violated by both sides. The UN has announced a sanctions regime to increase pressure on both sides to reach agreement.


The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution that creates a system for the imposition of sanctions against South Sudan where conflict between the government of President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar broke out in December 2013. But the Council held back from announcing any specific sanctions against people it believes are blocking peace. DW spoke to Ateny Wek Ateny, a spokesman for the South Sudanese government.

DW: What's your reaction to this latest move by the Security Council?

Ateny Wek Ateny: The United Nations has issued such resolutions without taking into consideration the circumstances under which the two rival groups are operating. The government of South Sudan has time and again committed itself to a peaceful solution to the problem of South Sudan and this is what the UN should have considered, simply because the government is serious about bringing peace to South Sudan. So, the United Nations should have helped the two parties to strike a deal rather than passing a resolution on sanctions which would be against the people of South Sudan.

The sanctions being envisaged include worldwide travel bans and asset freezes on individual leaders as well as an arms embargo. What impact would such sanctions have on South Sudan?

It will affect individuals. Concerning an arms embargo against South Sudan, this will hamper the South Sudanese ability to defend the country's territorial integrity and will give the enemies of South Sudan the opportunity to undo the sovereignty of South Sudan.

President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar exchange documents after signing a ceasefire in February 2015
A ceasefire deal signed in February by President Salva Kiir (left) and Riek Machar increased hopes for peaceImage: Reuters/T. Negeri

The Council has so far refrained from imposing sanctions. Do you believe they can still be avoided?

Yes, it is is an extraordinary move that a president has agreed to negotiate directly with a rebel leader. We do not have a precedent we can cite. This is a concession that President Salva Kiir has made and it speaks volumes about the fact that South Sudan is committed to bringing back peace.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than two million displaced since fighting broke out in December 2013. Is your government really doing all it can to end the fighting?

Yes, the government is very, very serious and I can tell you from the point of view of an insider. President Salva Kiir signed an early agreement with the rebel leader [former vice president Riek Machar.]. He always reiterates his commitment and gives orders to the army to observe any signature that he puts on paper to ensure that the army does not attack, it can only fight in self defense. But the rebel leader is attacking the government of South Sudan on many occasions, even if they have signed an agreement. The government is doing its best to ensure that the suffering of the people of South Sudan ends because as a government we do not benefit from war, we benefit from peace.

Ateny Wek Ateny is a spokesman for the government of South Sudan

Interview: Mark Caldwell

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