Embattled South Sudan ex-army chief Paul Malong says he isn’t bothered by United States sanctions slapped on him and two others because they are targeted for performing a constitutional duty for the war-torn country.
The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement on its website said it had blacklisted Malek Reuben Riak Rengu, deputy chief of defense for logistics in the army; Minister of Information Michael Makuei alongside Malong for their roles in destabilizing South Sudan.
The measures freeze any assets in the United States or tied to the U.S. financial system belonging to the three men.
However, Malong told Paris-based Sudan Tribune that; “I was the chief of staff and the duties of the chief of staff are in the SPLA act, which is consistent and subordinate to the Constitution.”
“If this is what I am blamed for, then I have no regrets. I was doing the right thing, I know. The Constitution is there; check what the duties of the chief of staff are and tell me,” Malong said.
Washington accuses Malong for obstructing peace talks, international peacekeeping efforts and humanitarian missions in South Sudan. He was reportedly responsible for efforts to kill Machar in 2016 and “did not discourage” the killing of civilians around the town of Wau last year.
U.S. Treasury said Malong was found with “currency worth millions of U.S. dollars in his possession” belonging to the military’s treasury as he tried to flee Juba in early May.
He denied benefiting from the war, saying he did not acquire anything new while serving as the army chief of staff.
“People who know me knows I have not acquired anything new when took over the command of the SPLA. All the things they are talks like the house in Uganda, I acquired before I became the chief of staff. It was way back, long time ago. The documents are there for people to see,” he said.
The U.S. crackdown comes days after Trump’s new aid administrator, Mark Green, visited South Sudan to deliver a blunt message to Kiir that Washington was reviewing its policy toward his government. He called on Kiir to end the violence and implement a “real” ceasefire.
The meeting signaled that the Trump administration was reconsidering its backing for Kiir, who came to power with the support of Washington when oil-rich South Sudan won independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011 following decades of conflict.
But the world’s youngest country dissolved into civil war in 2013 after Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, fired his deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer. Nearly one-third of the country’s population – or 4 million people – have fled their homes, creating the continent’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide