As President Obama leaves for Africa today, the Enough Project is releasing its latest policy brief, Creating a Cost for Those Destroying South Sudan, written by Policy Analyst Akshaya Kumar and Founding Director John Prendergast.
The president’s historic visit to Kenya and Ethiopia comes at a time of deep crisis in neighboring South Sudan. American contributions to the massive humanitarian response and support for the mediation effort to end South Sudan’s 19-month war have been considerable. However, the peace process has been undermined and both sides have demonstrated a complete lack of will to implement anything they agree to, particularly a string of agreements to cease hostilities.
The essential ingredient for a durable and lasting agreement in South Sudan is the leverage necessary to alter the calculations of the parties from pursuing war to pursuing peace. Without a wider strategy of leverage-building financial pressures and a push to secure regional and broader international cooperation for that approach, it will be difficult to address the deep political divisions fueled by a violent struggle for the spoils of a corrupt state.
In South Sudan, corruption and illicit financial flows, the offshoring of assets by elites, large-scale abuse and mismanagement of the extractives industry, security sector fraud, the convergence of licit and illicit systems, disguised beneficial ownership, and regulatory evasion have all combined to create a kleptocratic governing system. President Obama’s trip to the region offers an opportunity to reorient U.S. government policies to move beyond threats and focus on a much more robust strategy of disrupting and ultimately dismantling this system, which is funding, fueling, and profiting from the conflict in South Sudan.
The brief offers specific recommendations President Obama should take for tackling corruption and conflict financing in South Sudan on the following issues:
- Asset Freezes, Travel Bans, and an Arms Embargo
- Kleptocracy Asset Recovery and Return
- Capacity Building for U.N. Sanctions Enforcement
- Beneficial Ownership Transparency
- Connecting Regional Infrastructure Projects to Peace
- Accountability for Pillage and Grand Corruption
- Empowering Anti-Corruption Civil Society Actors