The president clarified in his notification to Congress that the executive order is not targeting the country of South Sudan but rather those who seek to undermine the stability and security of South Sudan.
Obama, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and State Department Secretary John Kerry agreed that the following qualifies an individual to have the U.S. property restricted:
1. Those who are responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following in or in relation to South Sudan:
-- actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan;
-- actions or policies that threaten transitional agreements or undermine democratic processes or institutions in South Sudan;
-- actions or policies that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan or obstructing reconciliation or peace talks or processes;
-- the commission of human rights abuses against persons in South Sudan;
-- the targeting of women, children, or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence (including killing, maiming, torture, or rape or other sexual violence), abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law;
-- the use or recruitment of children by armed groups or armed forces in the context of the conflict in South Sudan;
-- the obstruction of the activities of international peacekeeping, diplomatic, or humanitarian missions in South Sudan, or of the delivery or distribution of, or access to, humanitarian assistance; or
-- attacks against United Nations missions, international security presences, or other peacekeeping operations;
2. Those who are a leader of (i) an entity, including any government, rebel militia, or other group, that has, or whose members have, engaged in any of the activities described above or (ii) an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to the order;
3. Those who have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, any activity described above or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to the order; or
4. Those owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to the order.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated that the presidential executive order "sends a clear message: those who threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan, obstruct the peace process, target U.N. peacekeepers, or are responsible for human rights abuses and atrocities will not have a friend in the United States and run the risk of sanctions."
In issuing the executive order, the president is seeking to encourage the South Sudanese government and the rebels it has been fighting since December 2013 to cease hostilities and for both parties to participate fully in peace talks mediated by the African-led Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
Violence broke out in South Sudan on December 15, 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused his fired deputy, Riek Machar, of attempting a coup. Fighting between forces loyal to the two men has continued since December, with the political dispute devolving into an ethnic conflict.