Contributor's Opinion

The U.S. government deserves applause and appreciation from South Sudan’s justice and accountability seeking people


By Gatdiet Peter,

US President, Donald J. Trump reads a letter he believes to be perfect but whether it is implementable or not remains a consent(Photo: file)
US President, Donald J. Trump reads a letter he believes to be perfect but whether it is implementable or not remains a consent(Photo: file)

January 12, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — The government of the United States of America under the Trump administration does not only deserve a big applause but also appreciation from the people of South Sudan for imposing sanctions (including asset freezes) on South Sudan’s current first vice president, Gen. Taban Deng Gai, for his actions that undermine peace and prolong the suffering of civilians across the republic of South Sudan. Prominently, Gen. Taban’s actions alone undermine peace and stability in South Sudan. Such actions include, for instance, prosecuting abduction of South Sudanese activists from foreign nations to bring and kill them in South Sudan. These are apparently criminal acts that are questionable in the court of law and liable to accountability. 

As the International Declaration of the Human Rights declares in its principles, every human has “the right to life.” This means that every human being has the right to protection, but this right goes loose and remains at large in South Sudan for the actions that leaders (including Gen. Taban Deng) in that country are responsible for in absolute terms. In the light of the U.S. sanctions on South Sudan’s government FVP in pursuit of the human rights protection and the search for justice and accountability in South Sudan, one can argue that the Trump administration deserves a plausible appreciation for taking up the responsibility to protect the right to life of South Sudan’s people. This is by all means debatable for several reasons including the following.

Intimidating, abducting and killing of activists and opponents

First, the U.S. order of sanctions on the “second top official” in South Sudan may end intimidation, abduction and killing of activists and opponents employed by South Sudan’s government (with great proportion of orders from Taban Deng) as tactics – both internally and externally – without any cause that may threaten the country’s national security. The U.S order reminds everyone that South Sudan’s leaders (including Gen. Taban) cannot protect the lives of their citizens, whatsoever, without any help from the international community and the U.S. government in particular. This is because leaders in South Sudan are prone to self-interests (political gains) for a long term remaining in office which encourages massive corruption and dictatorship in the country. It is these factors that give courage to South Sudan’s leaders to intimidate, abduct and execute and/or cold bloodedly murder their citizens without any cause. For example, the abduction and killing of Dong Samuel and Aggrey E. Idri from Kenya’s Nairobi city is a case in point where Gen. Taban is responsible for and a prime suspect for the disappearance of the slain activists. The U.S. Department of Treasury clearly states that “Deng ostensibly believed that by murdering Dong and Aggrey he would weaken support for opposition leader Riek Machar and thus solidify his political position within the SPLM-IO and keep his position as First Vice President.” These, of course, are regrettable and irresponsible acts from a leader who thinks he can responsibly rule, bring peace to the affected communities and protect the state constitution.

Therefore, a thanksgiving from justice and accountability seeking South Sudanese people, goes to the Trump administration and in particular, the U.S. DoT for the well-deserved sanctions on South Sudan’s FVP in order to (re)enforce the search for justice and accountability in the country. Despite the U.S.’s current need for international attention abound with the state of affairs in the Middle East, the U.S. DoT’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) tirelessly works to ensure that gross human rights abuses and crimes against humanity remain averted at the minimum level from happening in the world’s newest state. This is indeed a good gesture that should be appreciated and loudly applauded. However, it is sadly appealing that in the elusiveness of justice and accountability oversight and absence of “oneness”, South Sudan’s government where Taban Deng serves as its FVP continuously denies responsibility for the continued human rights abuses and crimes against humanity against their own citizens. This is due to the fact that in a corrupt atmosphere of dictatorial regime, justice and accountability oversight have no room. Frankly speaking, they are not allowed in a bloody-stained environment. This, of course, leads to escalations, relapsing of the conflict and chaos continuously remain intake in the country. The impact often is lack of achieving peace.

Implementing peace agreement

Secondly, the U.S. sanctions on the FVP, Taban Deng, give a lot of hopes and expectations in regard to smooth implementation processes of the peace agreement (the Re-ARCSSS) that was signed 2 years ago in Addis Ababa. All the international and regional attempts to pressure the parties to the peace agreement – in implementing the Addis Ababa agreement in good faith – have been unsuccessful and unattainable for some reasons that are well known to South Sudan’s people, international and regional community. Amongst others, these reasons include hatred of personalities and unwillingness to work together in the (future) Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU). It goes without saying that leaders of South Sudan, especially those officials that serve in the Juba government, do not wish and/or lack political will to implement the agreement’s most important chapters (such as security arrangements and mechanisms ) which – if successfully happened – can lead to the formation of the TGoNU. The TGoNU formation has been tactically delayed and adjourned twice in time. First, it was extended for six months and secondly, it is now awaiting the end of “100 hundred days” which even remains uncertain. The open secret behind such tactical delay is that a successful implementation of the R-ARCSS means end of the suffering of the citizens. However, conflict traders have never enjoy living in peace. They only enjoy living in conflict to make living a palatable one, and thereof, boss the suffering of their citizens. Therefore, even though peace agreement gets inked, conflict traders (“peace spoilers”) everywhere in the world work to spoil it. They make the necessary efforts to brush the agreement on the faces of the suffering citizens and the suffering continues in unprecedented scale. Oddly, this explains and only translates into lack of justice, responsibility and oversight. Even though sanctions may put less pressure to leaders such as Taban Deng, therefore, one can applaud and appreciate the U.S. government for swift actions to place actionable measures on and pursue South Sudan’s leaders in order to bring justice and end the suffering of their citizens.

Advancing the course of justice

The third is that the U.S. sanctions on Gen. Taban Deng will forever advance the course of Justice and accountability oversight in South Sudan, including implementing the creation of tribunal court which will try those who committed gross war crimes and crimes against humanity since the inception of war in South Sudan. The lack of justice and accountability oversight on war crimes in South Sudan often reminds the relatives of the victims of their inhumane death in different parts of  South Sudan. This is because those who committed such crimes either threaten or deny and refuse to identify the identities of the culprits. For example, since the systemic abduction begins, jailing of James Gatdet, and the bringing in and killing of Dong Samuel and Aggrey Idri, the course of justice and accountability oversight remains elusive for the fact that those who are responsible (including Taban Deng) continuously denies responsibility without legal grounds but rather relying on the dictatorial shield code and in the cult of iron fist rule which altogether do not allow justice and accountability to take place in the ailing environment. This can, for instance, be justified from the statement released by the FVP, Taban Deng, after the U.S. DoT releases its sanctions against him that he was never involved in abduction and killing of Dong Samuel and Aggrey Idri. In the press statement, the FVP of government of South Sudan states that “I have been wrongly accused of serious human rights abuses” (……). “I deeply regret those baseless and unfounded allegations…” This statement gives a direct signal that justice and accountability have no exceptional meaning in the South Sudanese context when leaders (such as the FVP Taban) have the leverage to deny the international knowledge about human rights abuses and those who commit them in South Sudan. 

The international community and the U.S. government are well aware that serious human rights abuses are happening in different parts of South Sudan. For instance, the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo tweets on twitter that “the U.S. is committed to protecting human rights and determined to promote accountability of #SouthSudan peace process spoilers.” This utterance shows that there indeed exist enough evidences of human rights abuses in South Sudan. It should be worth noting that the U.S. government and its people have no other furtherance rather than ensuring that there should be no human rights violations in South Sudan and for South Sudan’s people to live in peace and in safer environment that should be created by their government. It is, therefore, applaudable and appreciative from justice and accountability oversight seeking people for the U.S. government to identify the individuals and places asset freeze on them. In the developed communities, sanctions are quite effective and are often emotionally felt by those who receive them. They block both the present and future advancements whether in political or socioeconomic statuses.

Ceasing the hostilities

Finally, the U.S. DoT sanctions against the FVP of South Sudan warn and may give the government in Juba the courage to cease all the hostilities with opposition forces in South Sudan in the fear of international isolation, especially any U.S. reluctant to support Juba political motions. It is no secret that since the signing of Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) in December 2017 in Khartoum, government forces and its allied militia have never ceased hostilities with opposition forces, including the “hold-out groups.” For example, on January 5, 2020, government forces under commandership and directive of Maj. Gen. Ochan Puot dislodge and take over SPLA-IO’s Jekow cantonment sit in the eastern part of the country (Maiwut area). The attacks by government troops on the SPLA-IO’s cantonment sit(s) in Maiwut [area] indicate an absolute divergence of the government to implement the peace agreement. The overarching iteration here is that government bears the responsibility for the continued attacks on opposition forces across the country in which South Sudan’s FVP is among those that bear the blame. It is no secret that government uses pro-government militias (PGMs) such as those commanded by Gen. Ochan to encourage lack of peace implementation, insecurity and destructions in the civilians areas that need peace and security. 

In conclusion, the U.S. government under Trump administration deserves a big applause and appreciation from the people of South Sudan for imposing sanctions on South Sudan’s FVP, Gen. Taban Deng Gai, for his actions that undermine peace and prolong the suffering of civilians across the republic of South Sudan. The latest U.S. sanctions mean a lot to people of South Sudan who seek justice and accountability oversight. These sanctions give hopes and expectations in the implementation of the agreement (R-ARCSS), advancement in the course of justice and may encourage government troops adherence to the cessation of hostilities agreement. The U.S. actionable measures on the government’s FVP may end intimidation, abduction and killing of activists and political opponents in South Sudan. 

For more concerns, you can reach this author, Gatdiet Peter, through his email at gatdietpeter90@gmail.com

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