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S. Sudan Ambassador Hopes to Repair Relations with US

Phillip Jada Natana, South Sudan’s new ambassador to the United States, meets with the Chief of the Protocol of the United States Ambassador Sean P. Lawler (right) at the State Department in Washington. (State Department photo)

In an interview Thursday with VOA's South Sudan in Focus, Phillip Jada Natana, South Sudan's new ambassador to the United States, said he wants to repair the damaged relationship between Washington and Juba.

The South Sudanese envoy said that Tibor P. Nagy, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, has expressed a willingness to work with the Kiir administration.

"He is someone who has been following keenly the situation in South Sudan, and he said he was really willing to open a new page and work with me as a representative of South Sudan here in Washington,'' Natana said.

U.S. relations

Relations between South Sudan and the United States have been strained in recent years. In September 2017, Washington imposed unilateral targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Central African country.

"In the interest of the people of South Sudan, we would really want the United States government to support the peace agreement because war has been costly,'' Natana told South Sudan in Focus.

The ambassador said the price for peace in his country is affordable, adding that the U.S. can play an important role to support the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement signed last week by President Salva Kiir, rebel leader Riek Machar, and other members of the opposition groups.

The new U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Thomas Hushek speaks to The Associated Press at the embassy in Juba, South Sudan, June 25, 2018.
The new U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Thomas Hushek speaks to The Associated Press at the embassy in Juba, South Sudan, June 25, 2018.

Support peace deal

Thomas Hushek, U.S. ambassador to South Sudan, said Washington will not continue to fund peace agreements that are violated over and over by participants in the South Sudanese civil war.

Hushek told VOA that the government and rebels, who signed the revitalized peace deal last week, must show a real commitment to ending violence, allowing unfettered access to humanitarian workers and releasing all political prisoners.

The U.S., Britain and Norway released a joint statement last week expressing concerns about the latest South Sudan peace deal.

"We don't expect that this agreement is going to act like a magic stick, that once you strike it,then it is going to be all peaceful,'' Natana said.

He said his country has many spoilers who are against the signing of the revitalized peace agreement.

Cease-fire violations

The Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), which was established to monitor South Sudan's cease-fire agreement, said it is still investigating reports of clashes between the government and SPLA-IO (Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition) forces in Yei River state.

In a Twitter post last week, CTSAMM said it received reports of violations of the cease-fire agreement in Yei River state and reminded the warring parties of their commitment to refrain from any form of hostilities.

Natana said the international and regional bodies should hold violators of the cease-fire accountable.

"The best thing to look at now is the enforcement mechanism that should be put in place,'' he said. "I think if the region, especially the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is keen that this agreement should hold, then I think they should speed up with deploying the monitors on the ground so that we hold people accountable who violate this agreement."

Natana is the third South Sudanese diplomat to head the embassy in Washington. He previously served as South Sudan's ambassador to Eritrea and South Africa.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.