Senators urge US Treasury to crack down on South Sudan corruption

15 Aug 17

American senators have urged the US Treasury to use the tools available to it to crack down on corruption in South Sudan, which they say is enabling violence and civil unrest.

In a 1 August letter to Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, Bob Corker and Christopher Coons of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said South Sudan’s political and military leaders had “hijacked and repurposed state institutions to enrich themselves and fuel violence”.

While humanitarian assistance was needed to save lives, the senators said the structural causes behind the violence in the northeast African country had been ignored.

“Given the resources we have dedicated, the United States should demand a more transparent and responsible government in the future,” the letter stated.

“This includes regional responsibility for impunity and the negative fiscal and human impact it has on stability and development in the region.”

In particular, they urged the Treasury department to deploy financial tools to target the financial networks that are operating in South Sudan and dispersing the proceeds of corruption.

“We urge you to investigate corruption, impose network-focused sanctions, identify hidden assets, collaborate with international anti-money laundering standard setting bodies, and work with regional partners such as Uganda and Kenya to ensure that the plundered resources that belong to the people of South Sudan do not flow through their banking system and real estate markets,” Corker and Coons told Mnuchin.

They also urged the Treasury to convene a meeting at IMF and World Bank annual meetings in October to highlight the situation in South Sudan and seek action from US-based banks, which they said had a “critical role” to play in stopping corrupt activity.

A meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September would also send a “necessary signal” to the financial sector, they said.

The senators’ letter was welcomed by the Enough Project, a Washington-based not-for-profit, which works to combat violence and corruption in Africa.

Brian Adeba, associate director of policy, said: “This letter sends exactly the right message by making it very clear that the United States will not continue to allow South Sudan's leaders to rob their country while millions face hunger, displacement, and violence.  

“Strong diplomacy combined with the robust use of the financial tools outlined in this letter offer the best chance for a peaceful resolution in South Sudan.”

South Sudan declared independence in 2011 but subsequent conflict between government and opposition forces has triggered a humanitarian crisis. A peace agreement was signed in 2015 and a government of national unity formed. This broke down in July last year and the country has been plunged back into conflict.

According to the Enough Project, 6 million South Sudanese – half the country’s population – are severely food insecure, and almost 2 million are on the brink of a man-made famine.

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