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U.S Diplomat Defends SPLA In Congressional Panel

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By Staff Writer


The US special envoy to South Sudan and Sudan, Ambassador Donald Booth who was interrogated in US Congressional panel about events in South Sudan, has described an event where SPLA allegedly shot at Embassy car as unintended.

The US diplomat was attesting details about the ambush on diplomat vehicles in July, saying it came “very shortly after similar-looking vehicles that were driven by opposition forces” refused to slow down at a checkpoint in Juba, sparking gunfire between the two sides that killed five government troops.

He also said the informal checkpoint where U.S. diplomats came under fire was in a very dark area, and that the vehicles they were traveling had tinted windows, which might have made it hard for the troops to see that the passengers inside were American.

As for why the soldiers continued to shoot despite the fact that the license plates on the vehicles carried the country diplomat number 11 representing Americans were on board, Booth described the SPLA as “primarily illiterate army.  Booth said it should be taken into account that the army is “primarily illiterate.”

“Even for the brief time they stopped and tried to show identification, it was not at all clear if these soldiers would’ve been able to see it, or even understand the license plate,” he narrated. Under intense pressure from lawmakers both on the subcommittee and others who attended the hearing out of personal interest, Booth fielded more than an hour of intense questioning. He defended the U.S. emassy’s response to the attack on the expat compound and unleashed skepticism as to whether the South Sudanese soldiers who fired at the diplomats really could have understood they were American.

Lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle who were present at the hearing, repeatedly expressed frustration with the US administration for failing to implement an arms embargo.

And Booth said it has proven effective to threaten to enact the embargo as a tactic to gain leverage against the government and sway its behavior.

But Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said it’s time to stop worrying about leverage protect civilians on the ground through an embargo. “If we make too many idle threats that are not backed up by action then ultimately what happens is the threats become irrelevant,” Rooney said.

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