Even as the people of South Sudan suffer through a decades-long cycle of civil wars that have caused severe deprivations, often bordering on famine, the country’s leaders have illicitly accumulated enormous fortunes despite modest salaries, according to a new report by the non-profit organization The Sentry.
The report focuses on top officials who have been, or are, in command positions of the military forces, including President Salva Kiir and former First Vice President and a leader of the opposition, Riek Machar. It highlights the link between systemic corruption and violent conflict. These officials have benefited financially from the continuing war and have effectively ensured that there is no accountability for their human rights violations and financial crimes, states the report.
The illicitly acquired wealth is often moved out of the country to purchase high-end real-estate, as well as extensive commercial holdings in both public sector and oil services working in South Sudan. The immediate families of these officials live luxuriously outside of South Sudan, and hold significant stakes in companies that operate in South Sudan’s most profitable commercial sectors.
“While corruption is harmful in any part of the world, it is especially appalling in a country on the verge of famine and struggling to build a government after only five years of independence,” said State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner in a written statement.
“While leaders have been pillaging government coffers, international donors including the United States have remained steady supporters of the South Sudanese people, providing basic services including health and education that are essential for the population’s future, as well as massive lifesaving assistance that has helped avert famine over the last two years. The U.S. Government provides no direct financial support to the Government of South Sudan.
“We and other partners have consistently made clear to South Sudanese leaders that they must implement reforms to fight corruption and increase the transparency of public finances, as part of implementing the peace agreement.”
The United States, wrote Spokesperson Toner, “is pursuing measures it can take to deter corruption by South Sudanese officials. We are working closely with The Sentry to ensure the information it has collected is used to that end.”