NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — South Sudan Thursday asked the United States and the United Nations not to slap warring parties in the country's conflict with sanctions for violating a peace deal without verification from independent monitors.
South Sudan Information Minister Michael Lueth said that independent monitors have to be deployed to verify who among the warring factions is violating the deal.
"If we agree and you attack, am I in violation if I fight back?" Lueth asked. "The agreement does not say I should not fight back."
New fighting broke out in South Sudan on Sunday, less than 48 hours after the country's president and the rebel leader agreed to a cease-fire that the U.S. secretary of state and U.N. secretary-general both worked to forge. Both sides in Sudan have blamed the other for violating the deal.
The U.S. earlier this month imposed sanctions on two leading figures in the South Sudan government and the rebels for violating an earlier peace deal signed in January. And the U.N. Security Council recently discussed sanctions, an arms embargo and a referral of the South Sudan situation to the International Criminal Court as ways to apply pressure.
South Sudan was plunged into violence in December when President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar of attempting a coup.
The fighting, which has often pitted Kiir's ethnic Dinka against Machar's ethnic Nuer, has killed thousands of people, often in what a U.N. report said were gross violations of human rights "on a massive scale." More than 1.3 million people have fled their homes because of the violence and aid experts say that if residents don't plant crops by the end of May mass hunger is likely to set in — and possibly even famine.
South Sudan is a largely Christian and animist nation that broke off from the Muslim-dominated Sudan after a 2011 referendum.