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Banks crackdown on South Sudanese

Fred Aminga @faminga

South Sudan nationals operating bank accounts in Kenya could soon find it hard to transact after a local financial institution moved to close accounts for some individuals last month.

A copy of a letter seen by People Daily from the top tier bank gives the targeted account holders 30 days to settle all indebtedness due to the institution before closure of accounts.

The action, which sources intimated to People Daily, is also being implemented by several banks will not only make it impossible for South Sudanese nationals to do business but also opens a Pandora’s box for those who have invested in Kenya.

“Pursuant to the bank’s right under the general terms and conditions governing your accounts, we hereby give you notice that we shall proceed to close the accounts at the expiry of thirty days from the date of notice,” read the notice in part. They are also required to immediately return all cheque books, meaning that going forward they will not be able to transact unless they deal in cash.

A manager who is not allowed to speak on behalf of the institution told People Daily that it was a decision made by management targeting Southern Sudanese nationals. “I cannot tell why the decision has been made, but it is a management decision to exit doing business with South Sudanese,” she said.

When contacted, South Sudanese Ambassador to Kenya Chol Ajongo said they are not aware of such a move, even as the letter made it clear they notify third parties of the move, to avoid any inconveniences after the closure of accounts.

“As Embassy, we have not yet received formally communication from the Central Bank of Kenya or any financial institutions regarding closure of South Sudanese nationals bank accounts, thanks,” said Ajongo through a text message.

For seven years, South Sudan has been in a civil war where more than 50,000 people have died, more than four million displaced and 250,000 children severely malnourished, some at imminent risk of death.

Yesterday, there was a glimmer of hope to the end of civil strife when South Sudan President Salva Kiir signed a new peace deal with SPLM-IO rebel group.

Kenya is closely connected with South Sudan with thousands of South Sudanese refugees it is hosting, as well as being a leader in the peace processes involving South Sudan for decades, both before and after independence.

Kenya is considered by many South Sudanese a safe haven from where they can do business. But when US Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker came calling last month, she warned that several individuals continue to invest illicit money in Kenya’s real estate and the banking sectors raising concerns that the country’s bid to becoming an international finance centre could be besmirched.

“I want to be very clear, those who profit from human rights violations and corruption, preying on the poor and innocent and mothers and children, must heed our warning,” Mandelker said at a press conference in Nairobi. “We will impose consequences, we will cut off your access to the US financial system and we will work with our partners in this region and elsewhere to do the same,” she said.

Names of individuals targeted and the property they own are contained in a report issued by The Sentry, which has previously compiled hard-hitting reports from extensive research on war crimes proceeds.

The Sentry is a team of policy analysts and financial forensic investigators that follows the money to create consequences for those funding and profiting from genocide or other mass atrocities in Africa.

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