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South Sudan “kidnapped” by its leaders: experts

April 28, 2016 (WASHINGTON) – Experts said South Sudan has been “kidnapped” by its “greedy and selfish” leaders in the ruling party led by President Salva Kiir, who have been reportedly squandering the wealth of the nation at the expense of the suffering people.

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US peace activist John Prendergast speaking to senior South Sudan army officers during his visit to Bor February 9, 2014 (Photo: Larco Lomoyat)

John Prendergast, Founding Director of the Enough Project, who testified on Wednesday in Washington on “South Sudan’s Prospects for Peace and Security” presented critical recommendations for U.S. leadership, including imposing and enforcing targeted sanctions, to pressure South Sudan’s leaders to place the well-being of their people ahead of “personal enrichment and power politics.”

He said South Sudan is turned into a “criminal enterprise” that serves the interest of the those in leadership in Juba.

“South Sudan is a country that has effectively been kidnapped for ransom by its leaders. This was never so evident than during my last visit to the country earlier this year. A government at its most basic level is supposed to deliver social services, provide security, and safeguard the rule of law. In South Sudan, however, it has been transformed into a predatory criminal enterprise that serves only the interests of those at the top of the power pyramid,” Prendergast said.

“Competing factions of the ruling party have hijacked the state itself and are using its institutions—along with deadly force—to finance and fortify networks aimed at self-enrichment and maintaining or acquiring power,” said the expert.

Unchecked greed, he added, is the main conflict driver in South Sudan, although politicians have mobilized armed elements on the basis of ethnicity, leading to horrific war crimes which make peace and reconciliation all the more difficult.

“And it turns out that, despite its central importance in the war, unchecked greed is the one factor that has not been addressed within the context of international peace efforts.”

In his submitted testimony, Prendergast also revealed new information about the activities in South Sudan of Blackwater, the Frontier Services Group (FSG), founded by Erik Prince in the U.S, and operates illegally in South Sudan on military matters.

Documents obtained by The Sentry, a new investigative initiative co-founded by George Clooney and Prendergast, appear to indicate that Frontier Logistics Consultancy DMCC, a subsidiary of FSG, also signed a $5.6 million contract to provide “logistical support” to the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) of President Salva Kiir’s government.

Prendergast, whose expertise is sometimes considered by the U.S administration, has recommended that the U.S. Department of State and Department of Justice thoroughly examine whether or not Prince and his associates have violated U.S. laws and trade restrictions.

“It is not only South Sudan’s kleptocrats that are making a fortune from the country’s brutal civil war. A host of mercenaries and war profiteers have turned up in South Sudan, eager to make profit from the country’s misery,” he warned.

He said Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater’s FSG, for instance, began operating in South Sudan as dealing solely with the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, not the military, but illegally turned into military dealer without being licensed by the U.S government as required by law.

“Prince and FSG indeed have significant business interests in South Sudan’s oil sector, including a contract to build and operate a diesel refinery and a $23.3 million contract “to transport supplies and perform maintenance on production facilities at the oil fields,” he revealed.

“However, providing services to South Sudan’s security forces would require a special license from the State Department in order to comply with the U.S. Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR),” he pointed out.

He also said the Prince’s Blackwater company had been fined for operating without such licenses several times, including once in 2006 for offering its services to southern Sudanese rebels prior to independence.

Although Prince’s associates stressed that they were not doing business with South Sudan’s military, an investigation by the online investigative news site The Intercept found that Prince’s company had attempted to provide attack aircraft to the Government of South Sudan in addition to other defense-related services.

It further said when crafting another pitch to South Sudan’s government for an operation that, according to the report, would entail “oil field security training, security intervention and protection support services to the government” for a cost of some $300 million, The Intercept found that Prince and his associates “explicitly plotted a business structure for the contract that would expose no traceable connection to them” which they believed “would enable them to hide violations of U.S. and international defence regulations.”

Documents obtained by The Sentry appear to confirm some key findings of this investigation.

Records obtained through our investigation indicate that Frontier Logistics Consultancy DMCC, a subsidiary of FSG, also signed a $5.6 million contract to provide “logistical support” to the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army.

“The U.S. Department of State and Department of Justice should thoroughly examine whether or not Prince and his associates have violated U.S. laws and trade restrictions,” it said.