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S. Sudanese army general embezzled millions: report

May 31, 2017 (JUB) - A senior South Sudanese army official used his position to accumulate millions of dollars through personal business dealing while facilitating a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, a Washington-based group said.

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Arms and light weapons have been used by both warring parties in South Sudan to commit abuses (Photo courtesy of SSANSA)

The Sentry said Lt. Gen. Malek Reuben Riak, South Sudan army (SPLA) deputy chief of defence force for operations, accumulated over $3 million in a personal account between January 2012 and early 2016.

The documents revealed in The Sentry’s newly released report indicate that the South Sudanese has directed foreign companies to purchase explosives from a private company owned by Riak.

John Prendergast, co-founder of The Sentry and Founding Director at the Enough Project, said documents revealed in The Sentry report illustrate a broader pattern in South Sudan in which powerful officials work closely together in a relatively small network and preside over the country’s violent kleptocratic system of government.

“The documents indicate that, by using international facilitators, these officials can get rich while the rest of the country suffers the consequences of a brutal civil war and a horrific famine,” he said.

He said network sanctions should be imposed on Riak, his companies and his associates, in order to send a strong message to South Sudan government that business, as usual, is no longer acceptable and going forward there will be steep and escalating consequences.

The Sentry’s senior investigations manager, J. R Mailey says the new report uncovers conflicts of interest and potential wrongdoing by Riak in his roles at Mak International Services, his company that sells explosives to private companies operating in South Sudan, as well as Bright Star International, a mining company where Riak sits on the board of directors, and Jubilee Bank, where he also holds shares.

"Today, top generals responsible for South Sudan’s famine are promoted and rewarded, rather than held to account. Meanwhile, the documents described in The Sentry report indicate that many of these same military officials are involved in questionable business transactions in the very same sectors they are meant to safeguard from corruption,” said Mailey in the newly released report.

He added, “Action is needed to alter the incentive structures of those responsible for atrocities, famine, and continued conflict in South Sudan. Without consequences, we have no reason to believe that the highly lucrative but destructive conduct illustrated in the documents will change”.

The report by the Sentry, a group co-founded by George Clooney and Prendergast, founding director of the Enough Project, cites corporate records, letters from international companies doing business in South Sudan, and U.N. reports to make the case that Riak used his senior position to strike exclusive deals for personal interests.

The report questions the legality of Riak’s role in Mak International Services, a company over which he has control, which sells explosives to private companies operating in South Sudan.

A January 2016 United Nations panel of experts report identified Riak as being one of the leaders who “planned the offensive” in famine-stricken Unity State and “oversaw its execution” since January 2015.

Fighting between South Sudan’s government, led by President Salva Kiir, and opposition forces led by former vice-president Riek Machar has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions since December 2013.