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The East African : May 5th 2014
8 CONFLICT IN THE REGION EA’s headache over S. Sudan crisis as US demands asset freeze Kenya, Canada and Aust≥alia have been singled out as hosts of assets and bank accounts belonging to the political elite of South Sudan A JOINT REPORT The EastAfrican K enya and its East African neighbours are facing pressure from the West to freeze the bank accounts and assets of political leaders of the warring factions in South Sudan, an issue likely to split countries in the region and complicate decisions on a joint intervention to end the killings there. It has emerged that the South Sudan issue has put Kenya and other regional countries in a dilemma over how to go about imposing sanctions on a friendly neighbour. Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan all have long-term interests in South Sudan. The Troika group -- the United States, the UK and Norway -- are pushing for the freezing of bank accounts and assets in Kenya, Canada and Australia belonging to President Salva Kiir, former vice president-turned rebel Dr Riek Machar, their families and close associates. On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Kenya and other East African countries to prepare sanctions and supply peacekeeping troops as part of an intensifying effort to end the fighting in South Sudan. Mr Kerry met with the regional foreign ministers -- Amina Mohamed of Kenya, Sam Kutesa of Uganda and Tedros Adhanom of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Mr Kerry wants Inter-Gov- ernment Authority on Development (Igad), a seven-nation grouping of Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, to move quickly to implement plans discussed in March for deployment of an Igad “protection and stabilisation force” in South Sudan. “I think what we realise is that a lot of the South Sudanese own property in and travel to Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia,” a State Department official told the New York Times on Friday. “Without them participating, the sanctions will be weaker.” But details have not been finalised. These include the make-up of the East African force, its financing and how it will relate to the United Nations peacekeeping force already on the ground in South Sudan. Effective sanctions US officials travelling with Mr Kerry are suggesting that financial punishments aimed at government and rebel leaders in South Sudan will prove more effective if levied by East African countries as well as by the United States. Proponents of the freeze said this could push the warring factions to hold peace talks given negotiations between the government of President Kiir and rebels loyal to Dr Machar have failed to advance since the January 23 signing of a ceasefire that never took hold. Sources within the Kenya government revealed that the US in particular is spearheading the campaign for individual sanctions, with Kenya being pushed to impose a freeze on accounts and asset belonging to key political players on both sides. It has emerged that there have been a series of telephone conversations between the Kenyan leadership and top US officials regarding the possibility of imposing individual sanctions on personalities seen to be sabotaging peace negotiations. Kenya, Canada and Australia are the three countries that have been singled out as hosts of assets and bank accounts belonging to the political elite of South Sudan. In Kenya, current and former ministers of South Sudan are said to own properties such as hotels, shopping malls and longhaul transport business, as well bank accounts. However, Kenya has been resisting sanctions on the grounds that any action against key players in the South Sudan conflict must be at the regional level through Igad, which is currently leading the peace negotiations in Addis Ababa. Besides seeking to remain neutral, Kenya is seen as the guarantor of the 2005 Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement. It also seeks to safeguard its exports to South Sudan and a key source of employment for its nationals, and is also worried about the influx of Sudanese refugees and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The UN Security Council was scheduled to meet late on Friday in New York to discuss the military and humanitarian situation in South Sudan. Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi had expressed willingness two months ago to contribute soldiers to such a force. Uganda has already dispatched some 2,000 troops to South Sudan to assist government forces. The EastAfrican NEWS MAY 3-9,2014 Members of the White Army, a South Sudanese anti-government militia, listen to a speech given by Gathoth Gatkuoth (right) during a rally in Nasir on April 14. Conflict in South Sudan has triggered a serious risk of famine that could kill up to 50,000 children in months if immediate action is not taken, the UN has warned. Picture: AFP Manoah Esipisu, head of Kenya’s Presidential Strategic Communication Unit, said that Kenya cannot take any action that is not within the Igad peace framework because when it comes to South Sudan, the regional body is the leader. “The issue of sanctions and the freezing of assets has been put on the table among other options like the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism and the protection and stabilisation force. However, I don’t think any government outside the region is in a position to apply pressure because they know that South Sudan has always been the initiative of Igad,” said Mr Esipisu. However, he said that Kenya is obliged to abide by any decision Igad members KEY QUESTION Will China support the sanctions given its huge investment in the South Sudan oil sector? So far, there have been no major divisions among the permanent members of the Security Council on the urgent need to stop the killings and restore order in South Sudan. make. Kenya also fears that mega-infrastructure projects under the Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) plan could be derailed if pressure is not applied on the warring factions. The Lapsset project is a multibillion-dollar investment that includes new roads, a new railway line and an oil pipeline linking the proposed Lamu port in Kenya to Juba. Kenyan MPs are putting pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta to freeze the assets of relatives and friends of the two protagonists, and the issue was discussed in a motion brought before parliament last week. President Kenyatta can only act on the pleas if parliament makes a resolution supported by a simple majority. The US government, mean- while, is grappling with difficult decisions in balancing human-rights concerns against other priorities in its relationship with South Sudan. In March, President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve $36 million in the next fiscal year for South Sudan’s army as well as $225 million in economic support for a variety of initiatives by the Kiir government. According to the budget documents, the $36 million outlay would go to “support the rebuilding of a fractured military and support the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s continuing efforts to transform from an oversized, disintegrated rebel force to an appropriately sized professional military.” The EastAfrican has also learnt that regional leaders US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd-R) meets with civil society leaders at the US embassy in Juba on May 2, 2014.
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