Background Briefing on South Sudan Sanctions

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Special Briefing

Senior Administration Officials
Via Teleconference
May 6, 2014

MODERATOR: Hi everyone, this is [Moderator]. This is a background call. We’ll have a couple of speakers, both of whom should be referred to in reporting as Senior Administration Officials, please. That’s how we’re going to do this call. Just so you know who’ll be speaking, first we’ll hear from [Senior Administration Official One] at the Treasury Department, who I know you are all very familiar with, and then we’ll hear from [Senior Administration Official Two] here at the State Department, who will talk a little bit about the Secretary’s trip and some of the other policy issues as well. And then we’ll open it up for questions.

So again, this is all background, Senior Administration Officials. Thanks for joining today. As you saw, the Secretary just announced to talk about the sanctions we’ve imposed related to South Sudan. So with that, let’s turn it over to [Senior Administration Official One] and then we’ll go to [Senior Administration Official Two] and then we’ll go to questions.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks very much, [Moderator], and good afternoon to everyone. Just wanted to talk briefly about the sanctions steps that the Administration has taken today. In the last hour, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control has rolled out sanctions against two individuals who have been driving and directing the conflict in South Sudan. The individuals are a South Sudan anti-government force leader by the name of Peter Gadet and a commander within the South Sudanese Government’s Presidential Guard by the name of Marial Chanuong. And we will have our press release up shortly, if it isn’t up already, to give you the spelling of those individuals.

Marial Chanuong, first, is, as I noted, the commander of the Presidential Guard for the South Sudanese Government, so he is reporting to President Salva Kiir. The Presidential Guard led the operations in Juba following the fighting that began on December 15th of 2013. And the second individual, Peter Gadet, who is fighting among the anti-government forces, is commanding a group of troops who were responsible for some of the horrific violence we saw just last month in Bentiu, the capital of Unity State in South Sudan.

Both of these individuals were sanctioned under the recently issued Executive Order by President Obama EO 13664, which allows us to target those responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan. That EO was signed by the President just last month on April 3rd, 2014. And it is a broad and flexible EO, which gives us the authority to target not just commanders but those directly engaged in violence and those who are providing material support to the forces that we see directing the violence, including those who are targeting UN peacekeepers or those delivering humanitarian supplies.

This new EO will be a critical new peace to our efforts to hold accountable those who obstruct the peace process and those responsible for violence against civilians. Today’s actions are the first designations under this authority, and we expect them to serve as a warning to those engaged in continuing the cycle of violence that has already claimed thousands of lives in South Sudan since December 2013.

And with that, I would turn it over to my State Department colleague.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Thanks very much, and I appreciate the chance to speak about what’s happening in South Sudan. As my colleague from Treasury stated, today the United States officially sanctioned two individuals whose actions have threatened the peace, security, and stability of South Sudan, or who have committed atrocities.

First, Marial Chenuong, as he said, commanded the Presidential Guard Forces and ordered and led attacks directed at civilians in the early stages of this conflict in Juba. The other, Peter Gadet, was – led the anti-government forces who were responsible for the April 17th attack on Bentiu, in violation of the cessation of hostilities from the January 23rd agreement, which resulted in the killing of more than 200 civilians.

As [Senior Administration Official One] said, we will continue to use the authority under President Obama’s executive order to hold accountable those who commit atrocities, obstruct the peace process, or undermine peace and stability in South Sudan.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the Secretary’s trip to South Sudan. It was his first as Secretary but by no means his first trip to South Sudan. He traveled to Juba and to the region, where he made very plain that it was critical that all parties abide by the cessation of hostilities, where he met with members of civil society and with UNMISS, the United Nations peacekeeping operation in South Sudan, and where he underscored the vital importance of humanitarian assistance, especially as the rainy season has already commenced.

In these meetings, he pushed for a meeting between President Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar to come to Addis for negotiations as a – one stage but a critical stage in the road to a more inclusive peace process for South Sudan. Both parties have now agreed to travel to Ethiopia for that meeting, and it is now tentatively scheduled for May 9th.

As the Secretary said today, we refuse to let South Sudan plunge into violence, famine, and deeper desperation. We will continue to stand with the people of South Sudan who call for peace and who recognize that the only way to resolve this conflict is through political dialogue.

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