In a new report published today, John Prendergast, Founding Director of the Enough Project, offers an historical review of corruption and profiteering in South Sudan, detailing how a legacy of violent kleptocratic leadership has led the world’s newest nation into a crisis of famine, war, and potential genocide.
The Enough Project report, “How The World’s Newest Country Went Awry: South Sudan’s war, famine and potential genocide” details the history of South Sudan, describing a “den of thieves,” in which battles by profiteers over power and the corrupt spoils of power, including an “oil-fueled gravy train,” have fueled endless cycles of conflict.
The current situation in Sudan is described as a violent, greed-fueled kleptocracy, in which institutions of accountability have been deliberately undermined, and calls for hard-target “follow the money” investigations into the looting of the nation. The report further provides a series of critical recommendations to address the root causes of famine, destabilization and war, and to dismantle the violent kleptocratic system that is driving the suffering of the South Sudanese people.
Selected report highlights:
“War has been hell for South Sudan’s people, but it has been very lucrative for the country’s leaders and commercial collaborators, South Sudan’s war profiteers.”
“In South Sudan today, war crimes pay. There is no accountability for the atrocities and looting of state resources, or for the famine that results.”
“Corruption isn’t an anomaly within the system; it is the system itself, the very purpose of the state.”
“Ethnicity has been used as the main mobilizer for organized violence.”
“The history of conflict and mass atrocities in Sudan and South Sudan is driven in large part by unchecked greed, manifesting itself primarily in the accumulation of wealth and power by the country’s leaders.”
“The competing kleptocratic factions are fighting over a lucrative prize: control of the state, which in turn brings control over oil and other natural resource revenues, patronage networks, some foreign aid, massive corruption opportunities, immunity from prosecution and accountability, control over the army and other security organs, the ability to control or manipulate banks and foreign exchange, the opportunity to manipulate government contracts, and the chance to dominate the commercial sector.”
“South Sudan is not wildly different here. The leading accelerator of most African conflict is greed-fueled kleptocracy in which state institutions have been hijacked for personal enrichment by a small group of leaders and their commercial collaborators internally and internationally, often using extreme violence. The networks are usually composed of leading government officials, generals, businessmen, foreign investors, banks, oil and mining company representatives, money transfer entities, and others connected to the international financial system. They disempower and destroy the viability of those state institutions because they want to avoid both accountability and transparency, and they brutally suppress all forms of dissent and independent expression or political activity.”
“In South Sudan (and Sudan), ethnic-based militias are recruited and armed to attack the communities perceived to be opponents. This practice goes back to the British colonial era, when identities were politicized, just as the Belgians did in colonial Rwanda, establishing ‘tribal authorities.’”
Key report recommendations:
“The missing ingredient in the international response is the creation of sufficient leverage or influence to shift the calculations of these violent kleptocrats from war to peace, from atrocities to human rights, from mass corruption to good governance. The surest way for the international community to build influence is to hit these “thieves of state” in their wallets.”
“What is needed is a hard-target search for the dirty money, the ill-gotten gains from the last decade of looting. Choking the illicit financial flows of the kleptocrats is the key point of leverage available to the international community, given the vulnerability of stolen assets that are offshored in neighboring countries or around the world in the form of houses, cars, buildings, businesses, and bank accounts.”
“Conflict can be transformed when hijacked governing institutions—first and foremost the military, which is simply a mishmash of ethnic militias—are reformed. Establishing measures of accountability is key. There must be financial accountability for the stolen assets; legal accountability for crimes against humanity; and political accountability which could exclude those responsible for the worst abuses from a future government.
“The most promising policy approach would combine creative anti-money laundering measures with targeted sanctions aimed at kleptocratic networks, the combination of which would be robustly enforced with the objective of not just freezing a few assets, but rather freezing those willing to commit mass atrocities out of the international financial system altogether… This is revolutionary, because it would suddenly give international policymakers and diplomats a major point of leverage to impact the calculations of those willing to commit mass atrocities to maintain or gain power.”
“Given the dominant position of the United States in the international financial system, and the extreme vulnerability to which the assets of South Sudan’s kleptocrats are exposed within that system, the United States is uniquely positioned to help alter the incentives for South Sudan’s leaders away from grand corruption and war, and to give peace a chance in that embattled and long-suffering land.”
“Ultimately, South Sudanese people will drive reform and determine their future. From the outside, the United States, Europe, the United Nations, the African Union, and other concerned actors around the world can provide support and solidarity to the efforts of South Sudanese people who are on the front lines of efforts to build peace, good governance, and accountability.”
Link to full report: http://eno.ug/2mZwPjE
(c) 2017 South Sudan News Agency