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Activists Accuse South Sudan Of Using Oil Wealth For War Crimes

South Sudan’s government has been using cash from the national oil company to pay militias to commit attacks on civilians, according to activists making allegations in an interview.

South Sudan dismissed claims published by The Sentry, a group co-founded by George Clooney. “The oil money did not even ... buy a knife. It is being used for paying the salaries of the civil servants,” said presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny.

The Sentry claims to have found payment logs from the state oil company documenting $80 million in fund transfers to fighters in the ongoing civil war.

“The documents appear to describe how top officials used Nilepet funds to support a group of (ethnic) Padang Dinka militias active in northeastern Upper Nile state and implicated in widespread attacks against civilians and other atrocities,” the Washington D.C.-based group said in a statement.

“They have used the country’s oil to buy weapons, fund deadly militias, and hire companies owned by political insiders to support military operations that have resulted in horrific atrocities and war crimes,” lead Sentry investigator J.R. Mailey said in a statement.  

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, but it has been a bloody road to establishing a stable government whose budget is dependent almost entirely on oil. In December 2013, civil war broke out when President Salva Kiir Mayardit sacked the cabinet and accused Vice President Riek Machar of instigating a failed coup. The civil war ended in 2015—officially—but clashes persist.

Last year, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping El-Ghassim Wane told the UN Security Council: “The conflict in South Sudan is a man-made conflict for which the leaders of South Sudan bear a direct responsibility. But the same leaders can also bring the country back from the impending abyss."

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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