A top U.S. official is calling on Uganda and Kenya to stop the flow of corrupt South Sudanese investments into their countries.
Sigal Mandelker, the U.S. Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said Ugandan and Kenyan leaders must stop allowing South Sudanese officials to buy up property with corrupt proceeds.
Mandelker, who is touring Africa this week, told reporters at the American Embassy in Kampala Monday that the U.S. government has made it clear to Ugandan and Kenyan lawmakers and bankers it is their responsibility to stop corrupt South Sudanese officials from taking illicit funds derived from the four-and-a-half-year conflict and investing it in Ugandan and Kenyan property.
“This trip really provides us with the opportunity not only to speak to our government counterparts but also financial institutions, NGOs about how human rights abusers and others are using the regional and international financial systems to hide illicit money.
"One of my top priorities as a senior administration official is holding accountable those who abuse human rights, perpetrate corruption and undermine democratic ideals of justice,” Mandelker said.
Last month, the U.S. government proposed freezing assets, travel bans and other sanctions on six top South Sudanese leaders who have been accused of blocking the peace process in South Sudan.
The U.N. Security Council voted to delay a decision on those sanctions for a month, pending a review of the warring parties’ commitment to observe a ceasefire agreement signed in December last year.
New U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Tom Hushek told South Sudan In Focus last week that Washington wants to work with the U.N to multilateralize those sanctions. Hushek said if Washington does not win the support of the United Nations, the African Union, or regional bloc IGAD, the U.S. may impose unilateral sanctions on the accused South Sudanese leaders.
The Sentry report
A report* released by the investigative group The Sentry last year indicated several South Sudanese leaders have invested ill-gotten wealth in Kampala and Nairobi, among other places.
Mandelker said regional governments are obligated to prevent corrupt South Sudan elites from investing or making financial transactions within the country.
“When it comes to South Sudan, for obvious reasons Uganda is of particular importance to us. We also know that much of the open-source reporting indicates that South Sudanese elites are hiding assets and buying property right here in Uganda,” Mandelker said.
She urged Uganda to “send a message that that kind of money is not welcome here.”
Uganda was Mandelker’s first stop on her trip, which will include stops in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is the first American in her position to visit sub-Saharan Africa.
The U.S. is the largest contributor of humanitarian aid to South Sudan, having spent more than $518 million in the country last year alone.
*An earlier version of this story misidentified the author of the report. VOA regrets the error.