S.Sudan: US to sanction both sides

The US expects to impose sanctions on individuals on both sides of the South Sudan conflict.

FILE: Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers celebrate alongside internally displaced people outside the UN base in Malakal. Picture: AFP.

UNITED NATIONS/WASHINGTON - Amid warnings that ethnic violence in South Sudan risks spiraling into genocide, the United States (US) expects to impose sanctions on individuals on both sides of the conflict in the coming days, American and other diplomatic sources said on Monday.

The sources, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said that the sanctions would involve a ban on travel to America and the freezing of any assets under American authority. People on both the rebel and government sides will be targeted, the sources added, without disclosing names.

"In the coming days," an American official said about the expected timing of the move. The other sources confirmed that the United States had already made a decision to sanction several individuals and it was now a question of timing.

The fact that Washington is preparing American sanctions against a country the USA helped create and has supported with large amounts of aid shows how frustrated President Barack Obama's administration has become with South Sudan's leaders.

News of an imminent American move came as Secretary of State John Kerry threatened sanctions against South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar if he spurned peace negotiations, while government forces battled for control of the northern oil town of Bentiu.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 1 million have fled their homes since fighting erupted in the world's newest nation in December between troops backing President Salva Kiir and soldiers loyal to his sacked deputy, Machar.

United Nations (UN) peacekeepers have been protecting tens of thousands of civilians who sought refuge at American bases for months.

On Friday top UN officials said the violence could become genocide, with the country's leaders locked in a personal power struggle. Members of the UN Security Council are also considering targeted UN measures in addition to any unilateral steps Washington takes on South Sudan.

Under the terms of a deal signed in Addis Ababa, the two sides in the conflict were to consider a truce on Monday to allow civilians to move to places of safety and plant crops.