South Sudan has recalled its ambassador to the United States, after the Trump administration unilaterally imposed arms restrictions on the government last week.
First Vice President Taban Deng Gai said the U.S. move will negatively impact efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in his country.
“Garang Diing (Akuong) has been recalled to Juba. They know the meaning diplomatically,” said Gai at the close of an event Sunday marking South Sudan's National Unity Day at Juba National Stadium.
Gai said the U.S. arms restrictions came as a surprise just as the government delegation was preparing to leave for Addis Ababa to attend the second phase of the High Level Revitalization Forum, which is aimed at revitalizing the 2015 peace deal. South Sudan’s warring parties signed a cessation of hostilities agreement at the end of the forum’s phase one in December, a declaration that was violated by both sides within days.
Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesman Mawien Makol Ariik downplayed the significance of pulling South Sudan’s ambassador to the United States.
“It is just for administrative issues. What we do in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is summoned (the ambassador) to come and answer some questions regarding administration and then go back. This is not a final recall,it is just to come and consult with us,” Makol told South Sudan in Focus.
But the vice president warned the U.S. decision would weaken the South Sudan government and embolden the armed opposition. He lashed out at the United States for trying to impose a U.N. Security Council arms embargo on South Sudan in 2016.
“We shall not collapse because of their sanctions, because our friends are there. Americans wanted to impose this arms embargo through the United Nations, but it’s because Russia refused. It is because China refused,” said Gai.
Gai said China and Russia stand ready to defend the South Sudan government against in the Security Council.
“We shall complain to the Chinese and Russians. These are the people with veto (powers). And actually the fact that America decided to declare a unilateral arms embargo is because they have failed in the Security Council, because we have defeated them there. We shall continue to defeat them in the Security Council,” said the vice president.
Gai told Juba residents Sunday the United States “cannot bully the whole Africa.” He predicted IGAD, the eastern African regional group, will not implement sanctions on his government and called China a true friend of South Sudan.
“It is the Chinese that will build the roads of South Sudan, not America because they are not our partners in our economy. The partners are Chinese. The other potential partners are Russians because the Russians are building a refinery,” said Gai.
Gai said the Chinese and the Russians have defended South Sudan and will continue to stand by South Sudan during what he calls “our difficulties.”