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Global Push-Back Against South Sudan’s Corruption and Human Rights Violations

Currently South Sudan’s political crisis has no end in sight. However, there is certainly no shortage of empty statements of political good will from those responsible for the ongoing crisis, who from time and time again have held dialogues and signed sham peace agreements. South Sudan’s kleptocracy continues to expand while oil revenues are drying up as conflict, war, and corruption are minimizing the effectiveness of foreign investments and humanitarian donations. Many analysts agree that as part of the peace process the international community and regional actors should pursue a more direct strategy targeting individuals benefiting from the chaos and diminishing incentives that are both fueling and funding the current conflict.

Networking sanctions have been proposed as a strategy to deal with the South Sudan crisis. In this case, networking sanctions are simply targeted financial enforcement measures to restrict financial transactions and freeze assets of the dictatorial regime in South Sudan. Where broad sanctions have been found to be counterproductive, networking sanctions may be seen as a more effective tool in targeting the victimizers responsible instead of the country as a whole. These targeted sanctions have also been provided as a diplomatic tool, considered to be more useful in pressuring authoritarian regimes as they create leverage rather than threats. These networking sanctions not only support peace, but also civil society groups and frontline human rights defenders who are often the victims of these tyrants.

Policy analysts at The Sentry have done extensive research on South Sudan’s leaders linked to major financial misdealings and human right violations. At the center of many of Africa’s deadliest conflicts are corrupt transnational actors, dealing constantly in illicit money; The Sentry follows this money to build criminal cases against them. It has been found that they retain the wealth and resources from the public by promoting militia attacks who terrorize innocent citizens through violent acts such as scorch earth attacks. These financial forensic investigators, policy analysts, and regional experts aim to disrupt the profit incentives for mass atrocities and oppression through network sanctions, anti-money laundering measures, prosecutions, and other tools.

While most of South Sudan suffers from poverty caused by wars and conflict, many of the top officials responsible gain enormous wealth and have families living luxurious lifestyles outside the country. It is estimated that only about ten to twenty percent of the country’s revenue goes back to the state while the rest remains in the nation’s capital, Juba, in the hands of the elites who have no intention or incentive to provide safety, deliver services, or uphold the rule of law.

Records provided by The Sentry reviewed 84 transactions during a 15-month period from March 2014 till June 2015. In total, the records list over $80 million in payments to politicians, military officials, government agencies, and private companies, many of which include captions that describe activities directly linked to President Salva Kiir Mayardit’s war effort. Among the documents are copies of correspondence describing the petroleum ministry’s provision of fuel and other supplies to support deadly Padang Dinka militias (the predominant ethnic group in Baliet). It has been noted through multiple sources that these networks have been using profits from the country’s oil and resource wealth to accrue personal fortunes.

As a matter of policy, targeting these tyrants can create an organic change, empowering those within the affected countries to gain their own freedoms, despite attempts by officials in those countries to stifle media, religious groups, human rights, and other civil society organizations. Advocacy groups, such as Africa Faith & Justice Network, have begun calling on the United States to stand up for democracy and human rights by imposing targeted sanctions against South Sudan’ leaders.

As of September 14, 2016 the U.S. Department of State has been working closely with The Sentry to ensure the information it has collected is used to pursue measures to deter corruption by South Sudan officials. In addition, the United States has also been persistent in calling on the UN Security Council to impose targeted sanctions against seven South Sudanese ministers and other officials, accusing them of obstructing peace efforts and blocking humanitarian assistance to civilians. According to a draft resolution May 31st the Security Council threatened an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctions against six regime leaders if fighting had not stopped and political agreement wasn’t being reached by June 30th.

However, July 13, 2018 the U.N. Security Council passed the resolution to renew the South Sudan sanctions regime. France, the Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, Kuwait, Peru, Poland, the U.K. and Sweden all backed the U.S. in their votes. The resolution would also order all countries to immediately prevent the direct or indirect supply or sale of weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and other equipment and spare parts to South Sudan until May 31, 2019. At one point during the draft negotiations seven officials would be added to the sanctions list, but the final draft only designated two individuals: Paul Malong Awan, the former Chief of Staff for South Sudan’s army and the Deputy Chief, Malek Ruben Riak. Both Malong and Riak have been in violation in investigative reports on corruption linked to these international humanitarian law violations and egregious atrocities against their own people.

However on July 13, 2018 the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution to renew the South Sudan sanctions regime. France, the Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, Kuwait, Peru, Poland, the U.K. and Sweden all backed the U.S. in their votes. The resolution would also order all countries to immediately prevent the direct or indirect supply or sale of weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and other spare equipment to South Sudan until May 31, 2019. At one point during the negotiations on the draft solution seven officials would be added to the sanctions list, but the final draft only designated two individuals: Paul Malong, the former army Chief, and Malek Reuben Riak, a former deputy chief of general staff. These men were targeted by an assets freeze, global visa ban and were added to the UN blacklist for their reports on corruption linked to these international humanitarian law violations and egregious atrocities against their own people.

John Prendergast, former diplomat and founding director of the Enough Project and Co-Founder of The Sentry said: “Peace processes need leverage to have any chance of success. If the parties to the process can flout the terms of any prior agreement without consequence, then no new agreement will be worth the paper it is printed on. The Security Council delivered a small dose of accountability and leverage today in support of peace. It’s not sufficient, but without this as a first step, peace has no chance in South Sudan.”

This article was initially published on www.afjn.org by Amie Culver, Intern