American policies towards Sudan and South Sudan have been different and contradictory for a long period of time. Generally speaking, Washington had tended to favor South Sudan and had tense relations with Sudan. However, with the second term of Obama administration, these relations have faced dramatic change. Business mogul turned president Donald Trump also uses similar policies, follows the new direction of relations regarding sanctions: Washington eases sanctions on Hartum while imposing sanctions on Juba.
Problems of the world’s “newest” and “youngest” country are continuing and have the potential to get worse. The ethnic strife continues, new militia groups are formed or some groups change alliances. In addition to this, the atrocities between ethnic and political groups are recognized as possible genocide, the number of displaced persons is increasing, economic problems are continuing. Lately, famine and drought further complicate the political process and daily life.
For 2-3 years South Sudan has faced criticisms from the USA. Washington has criticized South Sudan for its inability to reach peace. Moreover, it has put blame on Juba for its “inactions” regarding famine. To Washington, criticizing Juba has not been sole and viable option hence it has used more severe tools. It has used embargo unilaterally as a tool on South Sudan to “manage the things done”. In addition to this to press Salva Kiir Presidency, the US administration also refers the issue to the UN. Various times, it has tried to impose UN sanctions to get the attention of the international community and press Juba and opposition leaders to cease fighting. However, Washington’s attempts are backfired. For instance, the USA’s latest draft resolution on arms embargo and sanctions submitted to the UN Security Council was not accepted. The opponents of resolution, Moscow and Beijing, acclaim that only political measures would bring resolution so do stability to the country. The UN Security Council has already applied sanctions on South Sudan including travel bans, assets freezing.
Another US tool on South Sudan has been implementing national emergency decree. The new administration renews Obama’s executive order on declaring South Sudan as a national emergency for another year. Hence the USA freezes the transfer of assets and property to individuals responsible for endangering peace and security. To Washington, South Sudan continues to pose threat to its region and to the USA as well. The USA has failed to impose its desired UN sanctions so it continues to act unilaterally by declaring emergency including blocking assets of South Sudanese people whose actions trigger violence in the country. Those who use child soldiers in the battle, attack peacekeepers and aid workers and threaten transitional agreements are included within the scope of decree.
These recent developments have been important and interesting regarding once close US-South Sudanese relations culminated in the independence of South Sudan. The US policy is changed from supporting the self-determination aka independence of South Sudan to declare it as a threat to the USA and impose sanctions to press for finding solutions to its conflicts related with using powers provided by being an independent state.
On the other hand, Washington changes its policy towards Khartoum as well: it eases sanctions which are a crucial step regarding bilateral relations. The primary point is lifting trade sanctions. However military sanction will remain. Obama administration declared that it would lift trade embargo, unfreeze assets and remove financial sanctions. Trump approves this new step however after nearly 6 months it can be implemented due to the fact that Sudan has to pass the test on improving its human rights, solving its problems like Darfur.
Proponents of this brand-new policy argue that improving relations with Sudan would “help increase American leverage” and cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Lifting and easing sanctions do not mean that both countries have warm relations and close cooperation. Despite bilateral cooperation, Sudan has been on the list of sponsors of terrorism since 1993.
These new policies on Juba and Khartoum are not peculiar to the Obama administration. Trump continues to implement this line of strategy to Sudan and South Sudan. However, this kind of policy is different from previous administrations because they supported the independence of South Sudan. In fact, Washington’s support had a paramount effect on South Sudan’s formulation of its appeal to use the right of self-determination and later to use it. During that supporting era, Khartoum was blamed for South Sudan’s problems, the eruption of two civil wars and hence secession from Sudan, self-determination of South Sudan were recognized as ultimate solutions to give an end to South Sudan’s troubles. Now, Washington imposes unilateral sanctions on Juba and even further, tries to impose the UN approved sanctions whereas it eases sanctions on Khartoum. Washington has been in cooperation with Sudan in the fight against terrorism, on the other hand, South Sudan is presented as an impediment against consensus/cooperation in the UN Security Council. “Sudans” no matter what are tests for the USA. Washington is questioned firstly for its previous support on the self-determination of South Sudan and now its policies of sanctions are under debate. Regarding Sudan, the credibility of easing sanctions is tested while there have been some thorny issues between two countries.
To sum up, South Sudan would eventually be affected by these policies and sooner or later it will try to overcome its political and ethnic problems to prevent further international isolation and to get support from Washington. The latter will continue to use several tools like sanctions even conflicting parties will reach a deal. On the other hand regarding Sudan, Darfur issue will have an impact on future US-Sudanese relations.