A report released yesterday has revealed how South Sudanese leaders, both in government and opposition, have been looting the country’s resources, and has recommended new approaches to prevent impunity and to promote peace.
The report is urging the international community to use anti-money laundering measures and targeted sanctions focused on top leaders, together with robust enforcement. It asks them to take proactive steps to curb the laundering of money stolen from South Sudanese.
The report says that the desire to control state assets and natural resources is the reason behind the conflict in the country, and accuses the main protagonists in the South Sudan war of exploiting ethnic divisions to drum up support for the conflict that only serves their interests.
The report, ‘War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay: Stopping the Looting and Destruction in South Sudan’, the result of two years of investigations, exposes how top leaders in the country have accumulated wealth from massive corruption, fuelling and exploiting the civil war that has ravaged the country for decades, while the country suffers from famine and war-induced rape, destruction of villages and use of child soldiers.
The report alleges that President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar and their families and friends, have stashed away in foreign countries, fortunes that include houses, luxury cars and shares in business scattered in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.
"It seems that a very small number of people control a large swathe of South Sudan's economy - and many of these people are also the people that are in power," said JR Mailey, the author of the report, a collaboration between The Enough Project, Not On Our Watch, and C4ADS.
The report accuses President Kiir, Riek Machar, and top generals in South Sudan of profiteering from war and buying properties in upmarket Nairobi areas of Lavington, Kileleshwa and Muthaiga. These leaders also own property in Uganda and Ethiopia, and in other world capitals.
To stop the occurrence of atrocities and looting, the report recommends that those who are responsible for crimes against humanity and looting be brought to account, and that violence and corruption be made less attractive, while leaders should be encouraged to embrace peace, respect for human rights and transparency.
The report also recommends that the international community imposes sanctions on high impact targets and to ensure that the sanctions are enforced. Additionally, it calls for South Sudan’s neighbours to lead in combating the laundering of proceeds of wealth looted from South Sudan.
The report reveals the link between massive corruption, war profiteering and armed conflict. The report also focuses on other African countries like Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
The report by The Sentry, aims to counter mass atrocities and to promote peace using the tools of financial pressure on alleged perpetrators.
The investigators spoke to hundreds of experts all over the world, and to hundreds of witnesses, many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. The funders of the report say they have handed over the information to US and international governments and agencies, for enforcement and action.
The Sentry is an initiative that was founded by renowned actor George Clooney, John Prendergast, and which seeks to disrupt and dismantle international networks that benefit politically and financially from Africa’s conflicts.
The report says that none of the persons it accuses in the report responded to the allegations even when they were made aware of them.
However, media reports in South Sudan indicate that the government of South Sudan denied the contents of the report, describing it as “rubbish and nonsense”. Government supporters too were quick to dismiss the report, some terming it a ploy to bring regime change in South Sudan.