Dec. 16 (UPI) -- The Trump administration on Monday imposed sanctions on two top South Sudan government officials for encouraging conflict in the country, the Treasury said.
Minister of Cabinet Affairs Martin Elia Lomuro and Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs Kuol Manyang Juuk were sanctioned by the Office of Foreign Assets Control for pursuing actions that have fomented violence and obstructed the peace process, the federal department said in a release.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader former Vice President Riek Machar signed a peace deal in September 2018 to end years of civil conflict by forming a unity government by May 12, a deadline that has been twice extended with the latest due date being Nov 7.
The Treasury said the United States is imposing the sanctions as it has been over a month since the latest deadline passed and it has not seen steps taken to create conditions for a unity government to be formed or for the peace agreement to be implemented.
The United States accuses Lomuro of recruiting and organizing local militias to attack opposition forces and Juuk of failing to remove military forces from the battlefield as agreed to, fomenting violence with rival tribes and overseeing the training of militias in case of renewed fighting.
"The United States stands by the people of South Sudan who continue to suffer under this political instability that has led to thousands of deaths," Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Justin Muzinich said in a statement. "The South Sudanese deserve leaders who are committed to laying the groundwork for a successful, peaceful political transition."
Since civil war broke out in December 2013, an estimated 400,000 South Sudanese have been killed and 4 million have been internally displaced or fled the country, according to the United Nations Global Conflict Tracker.
The sanctions were applied under the Obama-issued Executive Order "Blocking Property of Certain Persons with Respect to South Sudan" that targets those responsible for the continuing conflict.
"Efforts to undermine peace rob South Sudan of the security, stability and confidence in government needed to negotiate and implement lasting peace," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. "The South Sudanese deserve leaders who are committed to laying the groundwork for a successful, peaceful political transition."
Pompeo added that both sides should distance themselves from "peace process spoilers" and that the sanctions, which freeze the assets of those blacklisted and bars U.S. citizens from doing business with them, can be lifted.
The sanctions come less than a week after the Trump administration imposed sanctions against five people for impeding South Sudan's peace process.