This op-ed, co-authored by board members George Clooney and John Prendergast, originally appeared in The Washington Post.
South Sudan’s leaders are perfecting the art of the diplomatic bait-and-switch while fighting over the spoils of a resource-rich state, destroying the world’s newest country in the process. The leaders agreed to a peace deal, but have implemented few of its provisions. They have agreed to a new judicial mechanism to try war crimes, but have delayed its creation. They have agreed to allow peacekeepers in, but they restrict their movement and whip up resentment against the United Nations. They have agreed to international humanitarian aid, but their forces obstruct the aid agencies at every turn and even attack, rob and rape aid workers. Meanwhile, more than 5 million people are suffering from hunger and require food aid.
All of this obstruction and obfuscation buys time for the leaders to continue to use extreme violence to loot the state treasury and the country’s natural resources. And we have the evidence. For the past two years, the Sentry, our new investigative initiative focusing on East and Central Africa, has compiled information from thousands of court filings, legal documents and financial records. Many of our sources had to be kept confidential due to safety concerns. Our new comprehensive report, titled “War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay: Stopping the Looting and Destruction of South Sudan,” shows that South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, the main opposition leader and several top army generals have been involved in a range of murky transactions, insider deals and questionable activities that suggest outright fraud. A number of these officials have command authority over military operations that resulted in mass atrocities in South Sudan.