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Africa in the News: US Paves the Way for Sanctions in South Sudan, and the EU-Africa Summit is Overshadowed by CAR Conflict

Mauritania's President and African Union's Chairperson Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (L) and European Council's President Herman Van Rompuy hold a joint news conference during an European Union (EU)-Africa summit in Brussels

The United States Threatens Sanctions Against Individuals that Block Peace in South Sudan

Yesterday, President Obama signed an executive order that threatens sanctions against individuals involved in threatening the peace and security of South Sudan. However, the order is a warning and no individuals have been named directly within the executive order. The White House press secretary’s announcement clarifies that any individuals that “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.”  

Interestingly, the news of the sanctions came just as the South Sudanese ambassador to the U.S., Michael Makuei, accused the United States of interfering with sovereign affairs.  Ambassador Makuei has also accused the U.S. ambassador to South Sudan, Susan Page, of making statements in support of Riek Machar and the rebel groups.

In related news, the head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Hilda Johnson, broke her silence yesterday for the first time since an incident in which a U.N. food relief convoy vehicle was found to be shipping arms. According to the U.N., an investigation into the incident is underway, and it seems that an arms shipment was mistakenly put on a road convoy.  The arms shipment was seen by the government of South Sudan as an attempt to arm rebel forces. After the incident, Johnson faced protests that called for her resignation. Meanwhile, the U.N. has also traded accusations with the government of South Sudan of blocking humanitarian efforts such as famine relief.

EU-Africa Summit Promotes Trade, But Is Overshadowed by Peace and Security Issues

The two-day European Union-Africa summit in Brussels this week sought to focus on people, prosperity and peace. In anticipation of the event, Africa Growth Initiative Nonresident Senior Fellow Vera Songwe suggests that African countries can learn a lot from Germany, in the particular areas of energy management and efforts for regional integration.

While peace was a key part of the agenda at the summit, critics reported that the prosperity-centered trade and investment talk was overshadowed by the conflict and security issues in the Central African Republic (CAR).  The summit started after the official launch of EU mission to the CAR on Tuesday, and 1,000 EU peacekeepers were deployed on the eve of the summit.  The summit also comes ahead of the October 2014 deadline for African countries to sign the Economic Partnership agreements with the EU, an important agenda item for trade and prosperity.

The summit was not without its diplomatic hiccups. Robert Mugabe boycotted the conference after his wife was denied a visa. He has received criticism for the move based on the overall impact it will have for long term Zimbabwean foreign relations.  South African President Jacob Zuma joined Mugabe in the boycott; Zuma reportedly took issue with invitations to the summit dictated solely by the EU. Earlier in March, the African Union Security Council, an organ of the AU, called for an Africa-wide boycott based on the restriction of certain countries, such as Sudan, from participation. The Security Council deemed this exclusion a violation of an AU resolution that states that the EU does not have the right to determine the composition of the African delegation.

In related news, Chad announced this week that it will pull troops from the CAR after facing repeated criticism by the U.N. on its conduct there.

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