The United States, on Wednesday imposed sanctions on South Sudanese First Vice President Taban Gai, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.
This is in Washington’s latest move to pressure the country’s politicians to form a unity government.
The Treasury Department said Gai reportedly arranged and directed the alleged killings of opposition politician Aggrey Ezibon and human rights lawyer Dong Luak in a move to solidify his position in the government.
Gai, former governor of an oil-rich region in South Sudan, has long been a powerful government figure in the country with close ties to President Salva Kiir.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement calling on the government and opposition leaders to create distance from those who spoil the peace process.
He said Gai, on behalf of Kiir, acted to “divide and sow distrust, extend the conflict in South Sudan, and impede the reconciliation and peace process.”
In December 2019, the U.S. blacklisted two South Sudanese cabinet ministers, days after slapping sanctions on five lower-level officials.
It added that they are responsible for the likely murder of the two human rights activists in 2017.
Treasury Deputy Secretary, Justin Muzinich, in the statement said “Taban Deng Gai’s attempt to silence the opposition party is derailing the country’s ability to implement a peace agreement,”.