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November 15, 2018

Enablers of theft, war marriage in South Sudan

I laughed and laughed when the Daily Mail, known purveyors of quality journalism, piled in on the Sentry’s South Sudan report by raiding Lawrence Lual Malong Yor Jnr’s social media. He is the 28-year-old step-son of Gen Paul Malong accused of mass murder, rape, and the use of child soldiers.Charming. What a treasure trove: Young Lawrence (‘Young Tycoon’) with all the standard nouveau riche signifiers – the jacuzzi, the business class flight, the hotels, the drinks (and some terrifying suits and shoes). All fun and games until the Daily Mail turned up with some questions. Then he suddenly flipped into the standard ‘so humble’, ‘blessed by Jesus’, ‘just trying to help the poor’, ‘I own nothing and accept gratefully whatever my friends will give me’ trope, the template for cattle-manure – bingo.

In their report, Sentry outlines the results of a two-year investigation of senior regime officials, their relatives, and their wealth, business and financial transactions. This lies at the heart of the South S’s economic and social challenges: ‘But South S’s civil war is not the result of a blood feud between two men, conventional explanations notwithstanding. The key catalyst of South S’s civil war has been competition for the grand prize—control over state assets and the country’s abundant natural resources — between rival kleptocratic networks led by President Kiir and (former) Vice President Machar. The leaders of South S’s warring parties manipulate and exploit ethnic divisions in order to drum up support for a conflict that serves the interests only of the top leaders of these two kleptocratic networks’. Here is an immediate link between corruption and armed conflict. And both Machar’s and Kiir’s families, and those of the other high-ranking officials, don’t live in South S. Why would they? Life is a lot comfier in, say, Nairobi or Kampala, the clichéd leafy suburbs. And that angle needs a closer look: South S is certainly a deeply dysfunctional state. But there are enablers to the marriage of theft and war, the helpers who remit the kleptocrats’ money and execute their business. The report mentions one of Kenya’s largest banks, KCB, surely familiar with the Know-Your-Customer principles: ‘documents reviewed by The Sentry indicates that KCB processed large payments from multinational companies operating in South S into the accounts of two senior South Sudanese politically exposed persons over a period of several years.’ Lawyers helped the kleptocrats with their transactions. Of course the helpful fairies are not only East African, but this is a Kenyan paper, and it turns out that Kenya may not be the lauded regional peacemaker, but one of the enablers.

The writer is an independent country risk analyst

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