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SSudan Inaction Frustrates US

FILE - President of South Sudan Salva Kiir signs a final power-sharing deal between South Sudanese arch-foes in Khartoum, Sudan, 8.5.2018

A senior American diplomat in South Sudan is urging the country’s leaders to show a sense of urgency in completing the remaining tasks of the 2018 peace agreement before the end of the transitional period.

U.S. Embassy in Juba Charge d'Affaires William Flens told South Sudan in Focus in an exclusive interview that key provisions in the peace deal such as writing a permanent constitution, holding general elections, and unifying the army remain unfinished.

“This is the time to reflect where this country is going 11 years after independence. It’s time for leaders to come together and to cast aside differences. South Sudan leaders should communicate more directly with their people to give them a sense of hope, to reinforce the fact that peace is the priority,” said Flens.

He said it’s “good to hear” President Salva Kiir say there is no more conflict and urged him to get that message out to rural areas, but added, “both leaders have to work together,” referring to Kiir and his political arch-rival, first vice president Riek Machar.

Repeated delays in implementing the peace agreement have raised concerns within the U.S. government about the political will of South Sudan’s leaders to implement the peace deal, said Flens.

“We stand with the people of South Sudan, but what we are disappointed though in the lack of urgency we have seen by the government in implementing the peace agreement," he said, adding "But that aside, we continue to support UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) which is performing critical functions here and we look forward to seeing more actions by the leadership of South Sudan to implement the remaining conditions that have to be met in order for free, fair and credible elections to take place.”

Elections are scheduled to take place in February, 2023 at the end of the transitional period.

The U.S. had high hopes that after South Sudan became a country, its leaders would deliver on the aspirations of the people who struggled for years to gain their independence, but that hasn't happened, Flens said.

“Our feelings of disappointment reflect those of the people of South Sudan about the country’s situation now," the diplomat stated. "11 years of independence and yet we still see that the peace agreement is not being fully implemented. It’s troubling to see and hear about violence erupting across the country, and the culture of impunity that remains.”

The diplomat compared current US-South Sudan relations to how a person feels when they’re let down by a friend.

“It’s distressing because South Sudan should be further along by now and when a friend disappoints you, it hurts and that’s what we feel,” Flens told VOA. He said citizens have been let down by what he calls “a senseless war,” political infighting, and corruption.

In his Independence Day speech last week, President Kiir said a new roadmap is being drafted to provide guidance on how the transitional period will end.

After previous extensions of the transitional period, any further extension should be justifiable, said Flens.

What would be different about an extension this time, given that there has already been an extension,” said Flens, adding that the President would have to make a clear case to the South Sudanese people for extending the period.

Flens defended the U.S. decision to cut funds to the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission and Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, saying the Biden administration is frustrated with the government’s inaction.

He noted the U.S. has provided nearly $145 million dollars in support to the monitoring bodies since their inception, but has only seen repeated delays.