Aid to South Sudan could be partly suspended if ongoing violence is not stopped, U.S. officials said Thursday as they pressed the new African nation’s government to allow for greater political inclusion.
The security situation in the relatively young country has deteriorated over the past few weeks. South Sudan President Salva Kiir said in mid-December that militants loyal to Riek Machar, a former member of Kiir’s government who was dismissed in July, tried to stage a coup.
“We have not seen any evidence of a coup attempt, but it certainly was the result of a huge political rift,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the assistant secretary of State for african affairs.
The two sides are engaged in a back-and-forth on reaching a ceasefire agreement, but Thomas-Greenfield noted that U.S. officials are not currently confident that the talks will be successful. Nancy Lindborg, the assistant administrator for democracy, conflict, and humanitarian assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development, said 240,000 people have fled their homes since the fighting — which has spread to seven of South Sudan’s 10 states — started.
“I would suspect that at a point if this violence continues that we would suspend that support,” Thomas-Greenfield said, referring to aid for the South Sudanese government. The United States also provides humanitarian aid.
Machar is demanding that the South Sudanese government release 11 political prisoners. Kiir suggested around Christmas he would release most of them, but he has yet to do so. U.S. officials are backing the push to release the political prisoners — who Machar wants included in the current negotiations.
“They will bring some political views that are much more moderate,” Thomas-Greenfield said. But she noted that U.S. officials have also “made clear to the rebels that we will not recognize a violent overthrow of a democratically elected government.”
The State Department officials’ comments came before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday, which marks the three-year anniversary of the start of the vote for South Sudan’s independence. The vote — which took place from Jan. 9, 2011 to Jan. 15, 2011 — gained broad support from senators in both parties at the time.
Thomas-Greenfield will head to across the Capitol Wednesday to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
What We're Following See More »
President Trump directed the Department of Defense to organize a military parade for November 11, Veterans Day, according to an unclassified memo written by H.R. McMaster and sent to Defense Secretary James Mattis. The memo says "Trump wants Mattis to brief him on 'concepts of operation for this event.' The memo also said that the parade route should begin at the White House and end at the Capitol." Trump was reportedly inspired by Bastille Day festivities in France.
At the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump announced his support for allowing teachers to carry concealed firearms at schools. "Why do we protect our airports, our banks, our government buildings, but not our schools?" Trump asked the audience. "It's time to make our schools a much harder target ...When we declare our schools to be gun free zones, it just puts our students in far more danger." Trump said that roughly "10 or 20 percent" of teachers were very adept with guns, and that "a teacher would have shot the hell out of him [the shooter] before he knew what happened. They love their students, folks, remember that."
Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is expected to plead guilty to a raft of new tax and fraud charges filed against him by special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday. Gates is expected to cooperate with Mueller's investigation.