As the World’s Newest Country Slipped into Chaos, Its Leaders Stole Millions, Report Says

Max Bearak and Louisa Loveluck, Washington Post, September 12, 2016

While they stoked war and famine throughout their stillborn country, South Sudan’s top brass amassed fortunes with the help of international banks, businesses and brokers, according to a new investigation.

Key beneficiaries named by the Sentry, an international advocacy group, include President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar, the two men whose deadly feud prompted South Sudan’s descent into war three years ago.

Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict since 2013, dividing much of the country along ethnic lines, with Kiir’s predominantly Dinka troops fighting Machar’s Nuer followers. South Sudan gained independence from its northern neighbor in 2011 after years of international mediation led by the United States.

“President Kiir and Vice President Machar have traded accusations about corruption and abuse of power. But make no mistake, the current war is not about changing the system in South Sudan; it is about who controls it,” said the Sentry in a report released Monday. {snip}

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Although Kiir’s official salary stands at just $60,000, the Sentry’s investigators tracked his wealth to luxury mansions in South Sudan and Kenya. It also found that family members–including Kiir’s 12-year-old son–owned major stakes in businesses across the country’s major industries, including oil, mining, construction, aviation and military procurement. South Sudanese law bars officeholders from engaging in commercial activity.

Likewise, investigators traveled to newly built homes owned by the Machars in the Kenyan and Ethiopian capitals. The report contains pictures of a relative of Machar standing in front of a large house in a gated community outside Nairobi, in a driveway with four high-end SUVs. Machar recently fled South Sudan after an outbreak of violence followed failed peace talks, and he is reportedly undergoing medical procedures in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.

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The report recommends freezing the assets of Kiir, Machar and numerous generals.

During a U.S. House of Representatives hearing last week, several U.S. lawmakers called for additional international sanctions to be imposed on individuals blamed for the ongoing violence. The United States is by far and away the largest contributor of foreign aid to the South Sudanese government.

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Almost 1 in 6 South Sudanese residents have been forced to flee their homes, and more than 5 million are urgently in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations. {snip}

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