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UN sanctions 'undeserved', says South Sudan vice-president

Machar took responsibiltiy for the outbreak of the violence [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 October, 2015

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James Wani Igga has appealed to the UN not to impose sanctions on civil war leaders - as the country was fragile after independence and its recent civil war.

South Sudan's vice-president urged the United Nations on Thursday not to impose "undeserved" sanctions against leaders working to implement a peace deal to end 21 months of war.

A peace accord was signed in August between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, Kiir's former vice-president, but fighting has continued in certain parts of the country, which broke away from Sudan in 2011.

Vice-President James Wani Igga told the UN General Assembly that his country faced a future "full of hope", especially if promises of financial and humanitarian aid were delivered.

"But it should not be subjected to undeserved isolation and sanctions, given its level of fragility as a new country," he added.

The UN Security Council in July imposed a global travel ban and asset freeze on six commanders - three from the government forces and three from the rebels - the first South Sudanese officials to be put on the UN's blacklist.

Meanwhile, the African Union announced it would set up a special court to try those suspected of war crimes, to promote an "African solution" to the conflict, the BBC reported this week.

The court will be based on a combination of international and South Sudanese law.

We made a decision to fight, to resist the onslaught of government on us, and therefore I have responsibility
- Riek Machar

An AU inquiry found that both sides had committed atrocities.

An admission of responsibility

Speaking to al-Jazeera on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, rebel leader Riek Machar welcomed the formation of the hybrid court and took personal responsibility for the violence that erupted in 2013, two years after his country's independence.

He told the Qatari news channel that the court and a truth and reconciliation commission were "important aspects of the peace agreement".

Machar also said that, while he took responsibility for the outbreak of violence, he had "no choice".

"We made a decision to fight, to resist the onslaught of government on us, and therefore I have responsibility," he told al-Jazeera.

He urged the eight-nation Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) regional grouping to deploy ceasefire monitors in regions where fighting had not stopped, to help the peace take hold.

"As we embark on the implementation of the peace agreement, sanctions and travel restrictions on our officials should no longer be the option," Machar said.

Wani Igga, who Kiir appointed to replace Machar as vice-president in 2013, was dispatched to New York to attend the General Assembly after Kiir complained that he had been summoned "like a schoolboy" to attend a special UN meeting.

At that meeting, held on Tuesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged South Sudan not to "betray and disappoint" the international community supporting the latest peace deal.

The civil war broke out over a power struggle between Kiir and Machar, after Kiir accused Machar of attempting a coup against him. Though both initially commanded support from various ethnic communities in the new state, the fighting was predominantly along ethnic lines - with Dinkas supporting the Dinka Kiir and Nuers supporting the Nuer Machar.

The UN estimates that at least 100,000 died in the conflict, and more than one million were forced to flee their homes with a further 400,000 fleeing to neighbouring countries. Other estimates put the number of those displaced by the fighting far higher.

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