South Sudan’s government has rejected claims that the leadership has diverted millions of dollars from the national oil company to fund the ongoing civil conflict. “The report was intended to damage the image of the president and the government of South Sudan,” Information Minister Michael Makuei told the BBC.
“We all know that Global Witness is US-funded and America has taken an anti-government stance, and Global Witness is an anti-government organisation,” he added. The report in question linked the state oil company Nile Petroleum, or Nilepet, directly to arms transfers and the financial benefit of President Salva Kiir’s closest advisers.
The company, it says, operates in secrecy, and the report details how this secrecy has been used to finance military operations, arms transfers to ethnic militias, and conceal the looting of millions of dollars meant to help imports of essential goods. South Sudan’s security forces have also been accused of atrocities in the country’s civil war, including ethnic cleansing and rape.
Nilepet has denied the allegations, and suggested the evidence collected may have been forged. South Sudan has been racked by an ethnically charged civil war since late 2013, pitting forces loyal to Kiir, a member of the Dinka group, against rebels linked to former vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer. The government dismissed the accusations.
The US and other powers have been stepping up pressure on South Sudan to stop the war, which erupted less than two years after the country declared independence from Sudan. Last month the US imposed an arms embargo, following sanctions on some South Sudan leaders late last year.
UN investigators last month said they had identified more than 40 South Sudanese military officers who may be responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Their report detailed mutilations, sexual crimes and killings of civilians. The war has forced at least four million South Sudanese to flee their homes, creating Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. —BBC & AGENCIES