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TheEastAfrican.co.ke: How South Sudan military brass wrung state golden goose’s neck

Posted by: Berhane.Habtemariam59@web.de

Date: Friday, 19 June 2020

Dollars.

Report says military leaders in South Sudan amassed wealth during the war and stashed their loot worth billions of dollars abroad. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

FRED OLUOCH
By FRED OLUOCH
Thursday June 19 2020

Even as the spotlight shone on the South Sudan political class over what was described as unbridled looting of state resources, a new report points fingers at military leaders, including former army chief of staff Paul Malong, accusing them of joining in the thieving band.

Sentry, an American anti-money laundering organisation, is calling out 11 top South Sudan military personnel for what it terms massive looting of the resources of Africa’s youngest nation.

According to the report released in May, the bosses have amassed wealth during the war and stashed their loot worth billions of dollars abroad.

Four former army chiefs of staff — Gabriel Jok Riak, James Hoth Mai, Paul Malong Awan, and Oyay Deng Ajak — feature prominently in the report titled Making A Killing: South Sudanese Military Leaders’ Wealth Explained, just as military leaders close to President Salva Kiir such as Salva Mathok Gengdit, Bol Akot Bol, Garang Mabil, and Marial Chanuong.

Also listed are rebel military leaders Johnson Olony, David Yau Yau and Hoth Mai and Ajak joined the gravy train of registering companies in the names of their relatives — including minors as young as two years old — to amass wealth to stash abroad.

“Except for Hoth Mai and Ajak, these men have committed egregious human rights violations with near total impunity since the country’s independence, according to the United Nations and the African Union,” said the report.

The Sentry details each of these military figures’ corporate holdings in South Sudan with possible conflict of interest, connections to the international financial system, or indicators of corruption and money laundering

The import of the report is that military leaders who have blood and friendship links with President Kiir and those who have committed atrocities to deter the forces of former rebel leader Dr Riek Machar, have been awarded lucrative contracts and blank cheques to loot the country’s resources, in the face of weak oversight mechanisms in the military.

The common thread is that nearly every case examined features significant international connections in the form of foreign business partners, funds transiting through international banks, property purchased abroad through immediate relatives living outside South Sudan.

The shareholders are from as close as Kenya and South Africa and as far as China, the US and the UK.

NIGHTTIME CASH WITHDRAWALS

According to documents reviewed by The Sentry, each one of the four former chiefs of staff has moved unexplained wealth through international banks and purchased luxury real estate properties abroad valued at far more than what public servant salaries would allow.

The report says that Gen Malong, who was the Chief of Staff from April 2014 to May 2017, would withdraw millions in foreign currency from the Bank of South Sudan after hours or on weekends on an almost weekly basis, for the purchase of “military equipment”.

For example, in 2017 after being sacked and fleeing to his hometown of Awai, Gen Malong was reportedly found with currency worth millions of dollars in his possession. The Sentry says Gen Malong has at least 27 registered companies, and business partners in China, Eritrea, India, Israel, South Africa, Sudan, the United States, and Zimbabwe.

Gabriel Jok Riak, who was the Chief of Staff from May 2018 to May 2020, was documented as having displaced more than 100,000 people in the military offensive in 2014 in the oil-rich Unity state. The Sentry documented how Riak apparently received a $309,524 from a Kenyan oil company in his personal account in March 2014, as a refund to the SPLA.

According to the report, Riak failed to deliver fuel to the military in Unity State in early 2014 and instead, funds reached a Ugandan lawyer whose name appears on the title deed for a Kampala home occupied by members of Riak’s family.

Gen Oyay Deng Ajak, who was Chief of Staff of the SPLA (2005-2009), reportedly had a large business portfolio while in office, listed children as shareholders of companies in which he had interests, and bought a luxurious home abroad.

Also featured in the report are four men who led troops engaged in the brutal December 2013 mass violence targeting tens of thousands of Nuer in Juba.

Salva Gengdit Mathok, Bol Akot Bol, Marial Chanuong, and Garang Mabil — rose in the SPLA’s ranks with Kiir in the 1980s and 1990s and backed him through multiple disagreements and open conflicts with the late John Garang and Dr Riek Machar.

The SPLA-IO affiliated leaders Gathoth Gatkuoth Hothnyang, Lt-Gen David Yau Yau, Johnson Olony also come in for a share of harsh assessment.

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SYTEMATIC ASSESSMENT

While the military leaders amassed wealth, ordinary soldiers have gone without pay for long stretches during the war, despite military expenditures accounting for up to 10.56 per cent of the national budget since independence in 2011.

According to documents reviewed by The Sentry, each one of the four former chiefs of staff has moved unexplained wealth through international banks and purchased luxury real estate properties abroad valued at far more than what public servant salaries would allow.


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