Sep 12, 2016 (GIN) – South Sudan’s top political leaders have siphoned millions from state coffers, dating back to 2005, according to a blistering report released by a U.S. watchdog.
The 65-page report, entitled “War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay,” claims South Sudan’s nearly three-year-old conflict has been fueled by battles over control of state assets and the country’s natural resources.
While South Sudan is roiled in a “violent kleptocracy” with a negotiated peace deal in tatters, family members and close associates of the leaders post photos of themselves on social media on planes, in five-star hotels and in luxury vehicles.
“The simple fact is they’re stealing the money to fund their militias to attack and kill one another,” Clooney told a press conference in Washington yesterday before a meeting with Barack Obama.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, but plunged into conflict soon after Kiir fired Machar as vice-president in 2013. Both sides are accused of orchestrating mass rapes, child soldier recruitment and massacres of civilians. A peace deal reached a year ago under international pressure has been violated repeatedly by fighting, and Machar fled the country last month.
“The evidence is thorough, it is detailed and it is irrefutable,” maintained Clooney. “It involves arms dealers, international lawyers, international banks, international real estate and it is because of these international actors that we are also able to provide solutions to help end this criminal behavior to protect innocent civilians,” he said.
The Sentry, an initiative of The Enough Project and Not On Our Watch, said for the past two years, its undercover investigators pored over thousands of pages of legal records, corporate filings, financial statements and other official correspondence, tracked suspects on social media and used satellite imagery to gather and analyze data. The researchers travelled to locations including Melbourne, Adelaide, Kampala, Juba, Cairo and Nairobi to gather evidence and interview hundreds of experts and eyewitnesses.
The report claimed individuals and major firms outside South Sudan had facilitated the deadly corruption. It said there was hard evidence of foreign companies making direct payments to the bank accounts of high-ranking South Sudanese generals. The banks that process the transactions also play a role, it said.
Clooney’s colleague, Don Cheadle,
He added: “These companies and banks can no longer say they didn’t know.”
Clooney and his colleagues said they would present the findings to Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and urge the international community, including South Sudan’s neighbors, to crack down on banks that fail to stop dubious transactions, and impose asset freezes on those responsible for human rights violations.
Foreign donors sponsored South Sudan’s independence declaration in 2011 and have supplied billions of dollars in aid since the two political rivals pitted their tribes and armies against each other nearly three years ago, with the U.S. topping the list with $1.6 billion in assistance.
The conflict has cost thousands of lives since. About 1.6 million of South Sudan’s 12 million people have been forced to flee their homes, and some 5.2 million are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, including food, according to the United Nations.