War Crimes Shouldn't Pay
Stopping the Looting and Destruction in South Sudan
The Sentry is an initiative of the Enough Project and Not On Our Watch (NOOW), with its implementing partner C4ADS.
South Sudan, the world’s newest state, continues to be embroiled in a horrific civil war. Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives, many of them civilians. Mass rape has been used as a weapon of war. Children are routinely recruited as soldiers and sent as cannon fodder into combat. As of July 2016, some 2.3 million people have been displaced by the conflict. A staggering 5.1 million people—almost half the country’s population—require food assistance. Entire towns have been destroyed. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called South Sudan “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world.”
The proximate cause of this brutal civil war was a falling out between the country’s top politicians: President Salva Kiir Mayardit and deposed Vice President Riek Machar Teny. But South Sudan’s civil war is not the result of a blood feud between two men, conventional explanations notwithstanding. The key catalyst of South Sudan’s civil war has been competition for the grand prize—control over state assets and the country’s abundant natural resources—between rival kleptocratic networks led by President Kiir and Vice President Machar. The leaders of South Sudan’s warring parties manipulate and exploit ethnic divisions in order to drum up support for a conflict that serves the interests only of the top leaders of these two kleptocratic networks and, ultimately, the international facilitators whose services the networks utilize and on which they rely.
The key catalyst of South Sudan’s civil war has been competition for the grand prize—control over state assets and the country’s abundant natural resources—between rival kleptocratic networks led by President Kiir and Vice President Machar.
In 2015, The Sentry began to follow the money that has been and continues to be amassed by these networks. This report highlights the link between systemic corruption and violent conflict, including the mass atrocities committed during the civil war. The Sentry’s investigation focused on top officials identified by the United Nations and African Union as having command authority over military operations that have resulted in widespread human rights crimes since December 2013, including President Kiir; Vice President Machar; Gen. Paul Malong Awan, the Chief of Staff of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA); South Sudan’s armed forces; Gen. Malek Reuben Riak, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the SPLA for Logistics who is in charge of military procurement; and Gen. Gabriel Jok Riak, a field commander under sanctions by the United Nations Security Council. The following are the findings of The Sentry’s investigation.