A human rights group says it has found evidence of huge war profiteering by some of South Sudan's top political leaders, including the heads of the two sides in the country's civil war.
The rights group's co-founders, Hollywood star George Clooney and activist John Prendergast, shared the findings Monday at a news conference at Washington's National Press Club.
The report from their group, called The Sentry, accused South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, former first vice president Riek Machar and South Sudanese generals of stealing millions of dollars from state coffers since 2005, when a peace agreement that paved the way for the south's independence from Sudan was signed.
"The simple fact is, they're stealing the money to fund their militias to attack and kill one another. The evidence is thorough, it is detailed and it is irrefutable," said Clooney.
"It involves arms dealers, international lawyers, international banks, international real estate. And it is because of these international actors that we are also able to provide solutions to help end this criminal behavior to protect innocent civilians," he said.
Prendergast urged the United States and other governments around the world to stop the stolen money from moving through the international financial system. He said The Sentry is proposing a new approach which would use "precision guided financial policy tools normally reserved for countering terrorism, for fighting organized crime, for halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons. But this time we want to use these policy tools in the service of human rights and peace and good governance in South Sudan."
The 65-page report, entitled "War Crimes Shouldn't Pay," says South Sudan's nearly three-year-old conflict has been fueled by battles over control of state assets and the country's natural resources.
President Kiir earns about $60,000 per year, according to The Sentry's investigation. But the president and his family are accused of spending millions of dollars on real estate outside of South Sudan, including a two-story, 460-square meter villa in the gated community of Lavington, an upscale neighborhood in Nairobi.
The Sentry also reports that former first vice president Riek Machar has a home in the same neighborhood.
It says four of President Kiir's children attend a private school outside Nairobi where tuition is about $10,000 per year.
The Sentry says General Reuben Riak who oversees logistics and weapons procurement in the army, has moved over $3 million through his personal bank account at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) since 2012.
Documents also reveal that General Jok Riak, who is under a U.N.-backed travel ban and asset freeze, had more than $360,000 deposited in his personal bank account at KGB during 2014. The Sentry says money was transferred to the account from Dalbit International, which deals with the trade, transport and management of petroleum products in Africa.
Army chief of staff General Paul Malong, who the Sentry calls the "architect of immense human suffering in South Sudan" reportedly has a government salary of $45,000 per year but somehow owns two homes in Uganda, along with a $2 million mansion in Nairobi, according to the report.
The Sentry describes itself as a collaborative effort between three other rights groups, including the Enough Project. It says its goal is to dismantle the financing of Africa's deadliest conflicts.
Source: Voice of America