South Sudan rebels say they support calls for seizure of assets bought by warlords in Kenya and Uganda in bid to tame the raging conflict in the Eastern African country.
In a statement on Friday, the South Sudan Liberation Movement-In Opposition, as Riek Machar’s group calls itself, said it supports calls for those who have looted the country’s resources to be held accountable.
“We endorse this investigation as it will help achieve one of the major objectives of our struggle to deliver to our people the promises of the liberation struggle which we have failed to do under the leadership of President Salva Kiir,” said Mabior Garang De Mabior, the chairman of the group’s committee for information and public relations.
The rebels were responding to calls by a US non-governmental organisation (NGO) and a government official who urged Kenya and Uganda to freeze assets of warlords from both sides in order to discourage them from fuelling the war remotely.
The NGO, the Sentry, founded by Hollywood actor George Clooney and activist John Prendergast, in its latest report claims it identified high-end properties in both Kenya and Uganda acquired by South Sudanese nationals where a civil war has led to deaths of tens of thousands and more than two million forced into refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
These homes in exclusive Nairobi and Kampala neighbourhoods may have been bought with the proceeds of corruption, the Sentry which first made this claim in 2016, said new evidence proves so.
“What will it take for Kenyan and Ugandan officials to investigate and then seize houses and other assets determined to be the proceeds of corruption in order to apply desperately needed pressure on South Sudan’s peace spoilers?” the NGO asked.
The Sentry report shows South Sudan President Salva Kiir owns a family home in Nairobi's Lavington neighbourhood as does his former Vice President Riek Machar. The two also own properties in Kampala.
Mr Paul Malong, the ex-military chief who recently formed his own rebel movement reportedly owns a house worth Sh200 million in Nairobi’s Nyari Estate, just on the edge of the diplomatic district despite him earning just Sh4.5 million a year as military chief, a position he served between April 2014 to May 2017.
He too owns luxury homes in Kampala, the report claimed.
The US wants Kenya and Uganda to seal legal loopholes that allow warring South Sudan leaders to launder money through their banking system.
Ms Sigal Mandelker, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the US Treasury said Kenya and Uganda must play their part in ensuring warlords sanctioned by Washington do not continue to transfer illicit money.
“We will impose consequences, we will cut off our access to the US financial system and we will work with our partners in this region and elsewhere to do the same,” she said on a visit to Nairobi.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 but has not known peace since December 2013 when former Vice President Machar disagreed with Kiir.
Efforts by regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development led to a peace agreement in August 2015 but it broke just under a year.
Mr Machar and Mr Kiir were due to meet in Addis in their first face-to-face meeting since July 2016.