South Sudan army denies graft claims in new report

Friday June 2 2017

An SPLA soldier is pictured behind a South

An SPLA soldier is pictured behind a South Sudan flag as he sits on the back of a pick-up truck in Bentiu, Unity state January 12, 2014. PHOTO | REUTERS 

By JOSEPH ODUHA

The South Sudanese army has dismissed a new report linking high-ranking officials to the theft of millions of dollars from the country.

Acting spokesperson of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) Colonel Santo Dominic said that the report, by international anti-graft agency Enough Project, is a well designed plot to tarnish the image of the force at international level by “enemies of peace in South Sudan.”

Accusations contained in the report titled Making a Fortune While Making a Famine, come at a time nearly half a million people in the country are starving due to an ongoing drought brought about by the civil war that broke out in 2013.

The report reveals how top South Sudanese army generals allegedly amassed millions of dollars and held the money in off-shore accounts through an array of questionable business enterprises while the country suffers the effects of a devastating war and famine.

The report released Thursday identifies General Malek Reuben Riak, [promoted on May 24, 2017] to deputy Chief of Defence Staff and Inspector General of the army as one of those responsible for the theft.

Off-shore accounts

It notes that Gen Riak used international banks to move millions of dollars and to conduct business with international investors aimed at enriching himself.

For example, between January 2012 and early June 2016, some $3 billion was accumulated in the general's personal account, notes the report, and that several army officers had a share of the cash.

The report further accuses the general of controlling a private business called Mak International Services that sells explosives to private companies operating in South Sudan, in an arrangement that has not only been endorsed but also promoted on an exclusive basis by the military in which he holds a key leadership role.

According to Enough Project, Gen Riak sits alongside several other senior generals on the board of a holding company that has joint ventures with foreign investors and appears to be active in South Sudan’s mining and construction sectors.

The report recommends that the US and other governments impose sanctions on South Sudan's military leaders and politicians who looted the young nation to benefit themselves while the country is in dire need of humanitarian assistance and development.

However, Col Dominic described the allegations raised against the SPLA deputy boss and other military commanders as false and baseless.

“The SPLA general command has dismissed all allegation raised against General Riak and other high-ranking officers and challenged those who came up with the report to meet the SPLA high command for fact-finding than using media as platform to accuse the army generals falsely,” said Col. Dominic.