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How Nairobi helps Kiir, Machar steal billions

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Rebel Leader Riek Machar


President Salva Kiir


Financial institutions in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya are used by South Sudan’s most powerful individuals to hide stolen monies which in turn finance the country’s incessant civil war and to purchase luxurious properties in those countries, according to recent Sentry report.

This happens as South Sudan continue to bleed from the fallout between ex-ally turned arch-rivals President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar that’s culminated into unrelenting civil war bankrolled by billions they have stolen from state coffers stashed in neighboring banks.

The two year undercover Sentry probe shows around $4 billion has been “lost” in the 11 years since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, which paved the way for South Sudan’s independence in 2011, said Sentry investigator Brian Adeba. Most of the misappropriated money has come from South Sudan’s oil riches.

Rebel leader Machar is accumulating immense wealth selling oil futures to Russia in exchange for arms.

Of the countries in the report, Kenya is adversely mentioned as a safe haven to hide their ill-gotten wealth. Both President Kiir and opposition leader Machar and their top generals’ families are actually residing in luxury villas in Kenya’s capital Nairobi – protected away from their war torn country.

Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) – east Africa’s oldest and largest commercial bank which Kenya government owns large stakes is used by both Machar and Kiir and their cohorts to conduct their money laundering schemes.

Efforts by press to obtain comments from KCB have been declined.

With families of South Sudan top government and military officials and rebels alike, living in Kenya since war began and billions of stolen wealth stashed in the country, Juba is technically governed from Nairobi.

Ironically both rivals Kiir and Machar’s families stay in same posh Nairobi neighborhood of Lavington. They bought villas in affluent Runda and Muthaiga too. These homes, according to the report are worth $1 – $2 million each.

South Sudan Founding Father the late John Garang’s family lives in Nairobi too. His eldest son Mabior Garang who served as Water Minister in Kiir’s government is usually spotted splashing in affluent parties attended by Nairobi’s top celebrities.

Last week, Kenya government threatened South Sudan with sanctions over continued civil unrest. Kenya lawmakers want rebel leader Machar’s relatives deported back to Juba as part of the sanctions saying that the instability in South Sudan is a threat to Kenya.

Kenya’s Business Daily recently reported that Kenyan banks at risk over sanction threat due to political instability and threats of sanctions. Several Kenyan banks including Equity, Co-operative and KCB operate in South Sudan.

It’s not the first time South Sudan’s big brother threatened Juba. It has since 2014. But it has not made good on any of those threats.

Sentry investigators indicate that banks holding pilfered South Sudanese assets could be either turning a blind eye to the theft or – just as bad – the officials in South Sudan, who are laundering their money in foreign real estate deals, may have influential people in the banks on their payroll.

“The simple fact is they’re stealing money to fund their militias to attack and kill one another”, as they amass still more wealth and their next of kin live in luxury, miles away from the violence that has displaced at least 2.4 million people and left more than five million in need, said actor and activist George Clooney who co-commissioned the inquiry.

East Africa Editor