AFRICANGLOBE – South Sudan’s government has described as “unfair and unjustifiable” last week’s sanctions imposed by the European Union on Santino Deng, one of its top army generals.
“It is unjustifiable and unfair for the European Union council to sanction a commander of an army division for carrying out constitutional mandate. This is not right,” defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk said in an interview on Sunday.
He was reacting to Thursday’s announcement by the EU that it would apply travel bans and freeze any eurozone assets of Deng and rebel commander, Maj. Gen Peter Gadet.
While Deng was accused of taking part in May’s recapture of the Unity state capital, Bentiu, Gadet was described as the leader of the anti-government Nuer militia that conducted an attack on Bentiu in April, violating the 23 January ceasefire agreement.
“The attack resulted in the killing of more than 200 civilians. Peter Gadet is thus responsible for fuelling the cycle of violence, thus obstructing the political process in South Sudan, and for serious human rights violations,” the EU said in its 11 July journal.
South Sudan’s presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, said EU’s decision could well be equated to a similar sanction imposed by the United States administration on Major Gen. Gadet and the head of the country’s presidential guards, Maj.Gen. Arial Chanuong Yol.
Yol was accused of killing an unknown number of people in Juba in ethnic-related attacks during the first days of the crisis.
The offending actions, for both the US and the EU, are thought to be related in part to the ethnicities of Machar, a Nuer whose forces are largely drawn from his own ethnic group, and President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka whose troops, are somewhat more heterogeneous. The Sudanese-national victims in Bentiu are thought to have been mistakenly targeted as a result of reports that members of the Darfuri Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) had fought alongside government forces.
The EU and US sanctions are potentially far-reaching. Cash and assets held in America and any of the 27 EU member countries are vulnerable to seizure. The EU has explicitly threatened punitive action against any banks operating in its member territories, which carry out transactions with anybody named by it in relation to the crisis in South Sudan.
It is also believed that international cash transfers by the accused men may be vulnerable.
Speculation of the action constituted a warning across the country during the event of continued failure to bring the conflict to an end followed by action against those the chain of command. Many members of South Sudan’s elite in the leadership, on all sides of the current conflict, have close family members settled in Europe and America, some living in properties which could presumably become subject to seizure in the event of any extension of the current sanctions.
The US sanctions allow the seizure of assets believed to have “materially provided financial, material, logistical, or technological support or goods or services in support” of activities obstructing the peace process; supporting actions which lead to human rights abuses; and obstructing the work of the UN.
The specification was made possible against individuals known to have supported individuals subject to US sanctions.