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February 5, 2018 (Washington, DC) - As the IGAD-led High Level Revitalization Forum kicks off today, the stakes have never been higher for South Sudan.

John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project, asserts, “The time has come for South Sudan’s warring parties to take the negotiations process as seriously as they do their war strategies, which are slowly destroying the world’s newest country.  To concentrate minds and provide leverage for more credible talks, it is imperative that the international community, led by the African Union, exerts additional financial and political pressures on the warring parties to drive them toward a sustainable peace agreement.” 

Brian Adeba, Deputy Director of Policy at the Enough Project, comments, “The ultimate end of the revitalization talks should be a permanent ceasefire, the establishment of a transitional government with reformed institutions of accountability so urgently needed to prevent the wanton looting of public coffers and a return to war, justice mechanisms for egregious war crimes, and, eventually, credible elections that pave the way for a democratic state."

The seemingly intractable conflict in South Sudan continues to rage unabated, causing great human suffering. At least 4 million people are displaced within and outside the country. A third of the country’s population is food insecure and is dependent on relief food. Yet, until now, South Sudan’s elite across the political divide lack the courage to make the tough choices required to realize peace.

As the talks resume, an ominous cloud hangs over the discussions. The cessation of hostilities agreement negotiated in late December 2017, a key ingredient for building trust and confidence between the parties during the talks, has been continuously violated and now only exists in name.

Brian Adeba points out, "These talks represent yet another opportunity for South Sudanese leaders to look beyond their narrow political interests and end the carnage that has torn their country apart. Sadly, the leaders have had many such opportunities since 2013 and consistently chosen to maintain this horrific conflict in order to benefit themselves.”

Brad Brooks-Rubin, Policy Advisor at the Enough Project, highlights the main reason why the peace process has failed to gain traction to date: “What has also been consistent is that these choices to continue the war and violate all agreements have been largely without negative consequences for the leaders, while devastating for the people. On the contrary, countless threats by the African Union to hold the spoilers accountable, and a lack of concerted action to follow through on the threats, has only emboldened the choices of these spoilers of peace.”

As the talks kick off this week, it is imperative that the African Union changes this scenario and takes bold steps to create the necessary leverage required to change the calculations of the warring parties in the South Sudanese conflict.

Brian Adeba notes, “Comments made by Moussa Faki Muhamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission in which he said spoilers of the peace process in South Sudan will face sanctions offer hope that African leaders are beginning to embrace new thinking in support of peace. For an organization long disdainful of sanctions, this is an unprecedented and encouraging statement which the African Union leadership needs to translate into a concrete policy. But this encouraging statement needs to move from the long list of threats to the nearly-blank list of meaningful actions. By creating consequences for peace spoilers, the African Union can begin the process of creating the leverage required to change the calculations of those who oppose peace in South Sudan.”

The Enough Project therefore calls upon the leadership of the African Union to replicate pressures that other members of the international community have taken for the course of peace in South Sudan.

By doing so, the African Union can join a growing international consensus and effort to impose consequences and gain leverage. Last week, the U.S. imposed an arms embargo that restricts the sale of military equipment to either of the parties in the South Sudanese conflict by American companies. This builds on a set of sanctions on three current and former leaders and three companies in September 2017, and further sanctions on one of President Kiir's business proxies and two of his companies in December 2017 through new authorities under the Global Magnitsky Act. The U.S. Treasury Department issued an unprecedented Advisory to banks focused on money laundering related to corruption and South Sudanese leaders in September 2017.

Last week, the E.U. imposed targeted sanctions on the same three current and former South Sudanese leaders that the U.S. sanctioned in September for their roles in violating human rights, and Canada did the same in November. The EU action was particularly well-timed, coming just ahead of the talks in order to provide a clear signal about the importance of this effort.

John Prendergast concluded, “Existing financial pressures need to continue to be escalated to include the targeting of networks associated with other spoilers at the negotiating table and in the battlefield, along with their commercial facilitators in the international financial system, who should pay a price for profiting from South Sudan’s misery. Network sanctions that go beyond targeting specific individuals hold the most potential to be effective in swaying the motives of the spoilers of the peace process in favor of peace. Global banks, as well as regional banking centers like Kenya, need to continue to clamp down on the transactions and accounts of those engaged in corruption in South Sudan.  It is in this realm that the African Union and the broader international community holds the most clout in holding the peace spoilers accountable for their actions.”

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