George Clooney has accused South Sudan’s leaders of stealing vast amounts of wealth and using it to fund deadly militias who have taken the young country back to war as rivals fight over natural resources such as oil.
President Salva Kiir, former deputy president Riek Machar and those close to both men have looted the country in accumulating wealth that includes mansions, luxury cars and stakes in a number of businesses abroad, according to a new report by a watchdog set up by the actor and activist.
When South Sudan won its independence in 2011 campaigners - such as Clooney - hoped it marked a new dawn for a country mired in decades of civil war.
Those hopes were dashed two years later as it descended into conflict once again.
Mr Clooney said the blame lay with the country’s leaders as he launched the report, based on two years of research, in Washington.
“They're stealing the money to fund their militias to attack and kill one another,” he said.
“We can either take action or we can spend the next decade mopping up the mess.”
The Sentry, an investigative unit co-founded by the American actor, said it had obtained images of official’s relatives partying in five-star hotels as well as information about their properties abroad.
Documents show that several children of the president, including his 12-year-old son, have held stakes in a number of business ventures, the new report says.
Officials in South Sudan who earn modest salaries have been able to amass fortunes with help from arms dealers, bankers, lawyers and others abroad, it said.
At the same time, conflict has forced 2.5 million people from their homes, mass rape has been used as a weapon of war and the country has divided on ethnic lines.
The report says: “The key catalyst of South Sudan's civil war has been competition for the grand prize — control over state assets and the country's abundant natural resources — between rival kleptocratic networks led by President Kiir and (former) Vice President Machar.
“The leaders of South Sudan's warring parties manipulate and exploit ethnic divisions in order to drum up support for a conflict that serves the interests only of the top leaders of these two kleptocratic networks and, ultimately, the international facilitators whose services the networks utilize and on which they rely.”
A peace deal reached a year ago under international pressure has been violated repeatedly by fighting, and Mr Machar fled the country in recent weeks.
Mr Kiir and Mr Machar have not yet responded to the allegations.
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