By KEVIN J KELLEY, NAIROBI NEWS
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar, fierce rivals in a civil war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, maintain family homes a short distance from one another in a wealthy Nairobi neighbourhood, states a report issued in Washington on Monday.
In addition, large sums of money have moved through accounts in Kenyan banks held by major figures in South Sudan’s calamitous conflict, says the report by The Sentry, a watchdog group co-founded by Hollywood actor George Clooney.
A compound occupied by members of President Kiir’s family sits inside a gated community in Lavington, “one of Nairobi’s most upscale neighbourhoods,” states the 65-page report entitled “War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay.”
The extensive property was found to include a two-storey, pale yellow villa that is more than 5,000 square feet in size.
Dr Machar, the leader of South Sudan’s armed opposition, also has family members living in a luxury home in Lavington, says the report.
This property includes “a large backyard with a large stone patio and a teardrop-shaped, in-ground swimming pool,” reveals The Sentry.The Machar property “is located a short drive from the Kiir home,” notes the report.
Four of President Kiir’s grandchildren attend a private school in a Nairobi suburb that costs about $10,000 (Sh1 million) a year, The Sentry adds, citing a “knowledgeable” anonymous source. “President Kiir officially earns about $60,000 per year,” The Sentry points out.
Posts on social media show Kiir family members “riding jet skis, driving in luxury vehicles, partying on boats, clubbing and drinking in the Villa Rosa Kempinski — one of Nairobi’s fanciest and most expensive hotels — all during South Sudan’s current civil war,” says the report.
The war has forced 1.6 million of South Sudan’s 12 million people to flee their homes for United Nations protection compounds or refugee camps in neighbouring countries. The UN estimates that 5.2 million South Sudanese are in urgent need of food and other forms of humanitarian assistance.
Not left behind is the family of General Paul Malong Awan, chief of staff of South Sudan’s army, described in the report as “the architect of immense human suffering” in the course of the conflict. His family owns a villa in an upscale community within Nyari Estate in Nairobi.
“The home includes marble floors throughout, a grand staircase, numerous balconies, a guest house, an expansive driveway and a large, in-ground pool,” states the report.
When visited by investigators from The Sentry, the home’s driveway contained five luxury cars, including three new BMW sport utility vehicles, says the report.
“Three independent sources told The Sentry that Gen Malong owns the house, with one source saying that the Malong family paid $1.5 million in cash for the home several years ago,” the report adds.
It notes that Gen Malong is likely to have earned the rough equivalent of $45,000 a year in official salary.
General Gabriel Jok Riak, an army field commander subject to United Nations financial sanctions, received transfers of at least $367,000 to his personal account at Kenya Commercial Bank in 2014, says the report. It notes that Gen Jok Riak is paid a government salary of about $35,000 a year.
Massive corruption lies at the core of South Sudan’s crisis, the report says. It cites a leaked 2012 letter written by President Kiir stating that “an estimated $4 billion are unaccounted for or, simply put, stolen by former and current officials, as well as corrupt individuals with close ties to government officials.”
The Sentry observes that “none of these funds has been recovered — and the kleptocratic system that allowed the looting in the first place remains completely intact.”
Governments of Kenya and other countries should investigate whether “laws are being violated by banks that process suspicious transactions on behalf of South Sudanese” political and military figures, urges The Sentry.