The European Union imposed sanctions Friday on three current and former South Sudanese officials implicated in human rights violations and obstructions of their country’s peace process.
Former army Chief of Staff General Paul Malong, Deputy Chief of Defense and Inspector General Malek Reuben Riak and Information Minister Michael Makuei Leuth will now be subject to sanctions by all EU member states, effective immediately. The sanctions include assets freezes and a ban on travel to EU countries.
Britain’s minister for Africa, Harriett Baldwin, welcomed the sanctions and pledged her country’s support to ending violence in South Sudan.
“It is more vital than ever that those undermining the peace process recognize the price of their actions,” she said. “The UK has played a leading role in pushing for these sanctions at an EU level and it is right that we are taking tough action against those who continue to act against the interests of the South Sudanese people.”
The sanctions come five months after the U.S. Treasury Department took similar action against the three men. The Treasury Department said the move was “for their roles in threatening the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan.”
Speaking to VOA’s South Sudan in Focus in December about the sanctions, Makuei said he was not frightened by the actions of the Trump administration.
“The fact that I am sanctioned does not stop me from continuing to perform my duties as the minister of information and the spokesman of the government,” he said. “I will continue to talk for the government [of South Sudan] and say whatever the government wants to be said. The fact that I am sanctioned — I do not have much interest in going to America.”
The EU sanctions come ahead of a second round of talks on revitalizing a collapsed 2015 peace agreement between South Sudan’s government and rebel forces. The initiative, known as the High Level Revitalization Forum, will begin on Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“We remain committed to supporting the peace process and urge South Sudan’s leaders to participate in good faith to agree [to] a political solution and end the suffering of their people,” Baldwin said.
The conflict in Sudan Sudan, Africa’s youngest country, began as a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his deputy, former first vice president Riek Machar.
The conflict has devastated the country, causing a humanitarian, political and economic crisis. More than 1.5 million people are on the brink of famine — twice as many as the same time last year. More than 4 million people, comprising a third of South Sudan’s population, have fled their homes, causing Africa’s largest refugee crisis.