A new report by the US-based Enough Project seen on Monday has accused South Sudan’s leaders of using its oil wealth to prosecute the country’s four-year civil war and terrorize civilians.Documents obtained by its investigative initiative, The Sentry, sheds new light on how the country’s main revenue source is used to fuel militias and ongoing atrocities, it said.
In the report, key government institutions such as the Ministry of Petroleum and Nilepet have been accused of channeling money to fund hostilities.
A document obtained by The Sentry detailed security-related payments made by the institutions, listing a total of 84 transactions spanning a 15-month period beginning in March 2014 and ending in June 2015.
According to what seems to be an internal log kept by South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum, more than $80 million was recorded as paid to South Sudanese leaders, military officials, government agencies, and companies owned by politicians, members of their families and their surrogates.
The think-tank said the money was used for services such as military transport and logistics to forces implicated in atrocities against civilians.
The Petroleum ministry also assisted in the provision of food, fuel, satellite phone airtime and money to a group of militias in Upper Nile state, it added.
“The documents we have obtained indicate that they have used the country’s oil to buy weapons, fund deadly militias, and hire companies owned by political insiders to support military operations that have resulted in horrific atrocities and war crimes,” said J.R. Mailey, the Special Investigations Director at The Sentry.
Companies that have been implicated in the report are Interstate Airways, partially owned by the First Lady Mary Ayen Mayardit and Nile Basin for Aviation, an airline partly owned by the wife of the former chief of staff, Paul Malong and a nephew of the Minister of Finance and Planning, Stephen Dhieu Dau.
Others are Golden Wings Aviation and Crown Auto Trade, both owned by Obac William Olawo, a prominent South Sudanese businessman.
Nilepet’s Director of Public Relations Yiey Puoch has meanwhile denied that the state-owned oil firm was involved in encouraging war in the country:
“Nile Petroleum Corporation is an oil and gas company for South Sudan. The mandate is to explore oil and also to import fuel into the country. It has nothing to do with encouraging violence or funding war in that matter” he told a local radio.
He claimed the document obtained by The Sentry may have been forged and the name of the firm included.
According to Enough Project, The Sentry recommended that the international community targets the networks behind violence and also impose sectoral sanctions.
“In order to build the leverage needed for peace, the international community should target the assets of those responsible for continued violence and deny them from accessing the international banking system,” said John Prendergast, Co-founder of The Sentry and Founding Director of the Enough Project.
The think-tank called on South Sudan’s neighbors to escalate pressure, or risk damage to their own financial systems.
Banks and financial regulators have also been asked to step up efforts to halt the flow of illicit funds out of South Sudan.