December 12, 2019 / 4:24 PM / a month ago

U.S. threatens visa restrictions over South Sudan peace process

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday threatened visa restrictions on anyone who attempts to damage the peace process in South Sudan as Washington upped its pressure on the war-torn country to form a unity government and reevaluates its relationship with the African nation.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would implement visa restrictions barring those who “undermine or impede the peace process in South Sudan” from entering the United States, including those who violate a ceasefire or United Nations arms embargo, commit human rights abuses or engage in corruption.

“The people of South Sudan have suffered enough while their leaders delay the implementation of a sustainable peace. The South Sudanese deserve leaders who are committed to building consensus and willing to compromise for the greater good,” Pompeo said in a statement, adding that the visa restrictions could also apply to family members.

The announcement comes after Washington earlier this week imposed sanctions on five South Sudan officials it said are responsible for the likely murders of two human rights activists in 2017.

Last month, the United States recalled its ambassador from South Sudan for consultations as part of a move to reevaluate the relationship with the African country.

After a devastating five-year civil war, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal in September 2018 to form the unity government by Nov. 12, under pressure from the United Nations, the United States and regional governments.

But days before the deadline, the two leaders agreed to give themselves an extension of 100 days. Washington said it was “gravely disappointed” by the delay.

Civil war broke out in oil-producing South Sudan in 2013, less than two years after the country gained independence from Sudan following decades of war. The conflict has killed an estimated 400,000 people, triggered a famine and created Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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