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New US Diplomat: South Sudan Policy Unlikely to Change

South Sudan
South Sudan

U.S. government policy toward South Sudan isn’t expected to change regardless of the new presidential administration, according to Jon Danilowicz, the new U.S. charge d’affaires to South Sudan.

He said the top priority will remain restoring peace and stability in the country. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has been declared the winner, but President Donald Trump has so far refused to concede. Some mail ballots are still being counted.

This week at his first news conference at the U.S. Embassy since arriving in Juba nearly two months ago, Danilowicz said there has been bipartisan consensus between Democrats and Republicans on U.S. policy toward South Sudan.

“If I look at the current U.S. policy and engagement on South Sudan and if I look at the future, I don’t see significant differences regarding how the United States will engage in South Sudan depending on which political party may be in power in the executive branch or legislature,” Danilowicz told reporters.

Danilowicz said Washington’s main objective in South Sudan is to ensure its political leaders restore stability across the country and to promote democracy which ensures delivery of services to vulnerable South Sudanese people.

“A priority for my government both bilaterally and as partners of the Troika ... our colleagues from the United Kingdom and Norway — is to do all what we can to support the peace process,” said Danilowicz.

After months of haggling, mediators for South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Party and opposition parties signed a revitalized peace agreement in 2018 and formed a transitional government the following year.

Danilowicz said the U.S. government is discussing plans to construct a new embassy compound in Juba, which he said is symbolic of Washington’s long-term commitment to South Sudan.

In 2014 the United States scaled back funding to South Sudan after the country’s civil war erupted in late 2013.

Washington reduced funding for development projects and shifted much of its financial assistance to humanitarian aid. The U.S. also imposed targeted sanctions on senior South Sudanese politicians and military commanders accused of spoiling peace efforts in the country.

Asked whether the U.S. would continue to sanction South Sudanese individuals accused of obstructing peace efforts, Danilowicz explained that sanctions are a tool “that not just the United States but other bilateral countries use” in their relationships with South Sudan and other countries.

He said while the U.S. considers steering part of its funding to community resilience projects, such as job creation programs and sustainable development projects, much of the funding will continue to go toward humanitarian assistance.

The U.S. diplomat noted the United States is still concerned about the slow pace of implementing two key provisions of the revitalized peace deal: security arrangements and power sharing.

“We look forward to engaging conversation recognizing that these chapters of the peace agreement are absolutely essential if we are to see the rest of the processes move forward and if we are to see improvement in the security situation, which will enable further development in economic growth,” said Danilowicz.

It’s been two years since South Sudan’s former warring parties signed the peace agreement, but government and rebel forces have yet to form one unified army, a core provision of the peace deal, and many state and local governments have yet to be set up.