While millions of South Sudanese people are dying of starvation, an influential General in the country’s army is stashing fortunes in foreign banks.
According to an explosive report released by The Sentry on Wednesday, Lieutenant General Malek reuben Riak has been hoarding millions of dollars, acquired through questionable business enterprises, in foreign banks while the country continues to bear the pangs of famine.
Lt. Gen. Riak, who is the Deputed Chief of Defense Staff and Inspector General of the Army, has been named by the United Nations as one of the people responsible for the violence that led to the ongoing civil war and the resulting famine in South Sudan.
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“One important finding is that Lt. Gen. Ruben Riak controls a private business called Mak International Services that sells explosives to private companies operating in South Sudan,” the report claims.
This arrangement has not only been endorsed, but also promoted on an exclusive basis by the military in which he holds a key leadership position.
The General is also alleged to sit, along with 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.
Lt. Gen. Riak and members of his family jointly own businesses with members of the political elite in neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, the report claims.
His case demonstrates a broader pattern in the war-torn country where powerful officials work closely together in a relatively small network and preside over the country’s violent kleptocratic system of government in order to continue enriching themselves.
“Their business interests often intersect with one another and with those of officials in neighboring countries, undermining the credibility of diplomatic processes designed to promote peace and possibly compromising those involved in negotiations,” The Sentry, reveals.
The Sentry is a team of policy analysts, regional experts, and financial forensic investigators that follows the money in order to create consequences for those funding and profiting from genocide or other mass atrocities in Africa, and to build leverage for peace.
Spoils of War
In a report titled War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay, The Sentry provides information showing how $3.03 million moved through Lt. Gen. Reuben Riak’s personal bank account at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) between January 2012 and early 2016.
Some of these large payments, which include more than $700,000 in cash deposits, are alleged to be from international construction companies operating in South Sudan.
“These include hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments and cash deposits into the account since the war in South Sudan began in December 2013,” the report alleges.
The investment portfolios of several of Lt. Gen. Riak’s children also reveal overlapping business interests with families of other top South Sudanese officials.
For example, Reuben Riak’s daughter, Christine Malek Reuben, is alleged to hold a 20 percent stake in Euro-Afro Trade and Consult Ltd. alongside Anok Kiir, the daughter of South Sudanese president Slava Kiir, and an Egyptian businessman.
The current war in South Sudan broke out in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir fell out with his former deputy Riek Machar following claims that Machar was plotting a coup.
Initially, the fighting was between pro-government forces and rebels led by Machar, but since both leaders enjoy great support from their respective ethnic communities, Dinka and Nuer, the conflict has degenerated into an ethnic war.
So far, at least 300,000 people have been killed and more than 3.5 million others displaced.