JUBA – The U.S. slapped sanctions on three current and former South Sudanese officials in President Salva Kiir’s government for their alleged roles in destabilizing the African nation and “enriching” themselves through corruption.
The U.S. blacklisted South Sudan’s army deputy chief of staff Malek Reuben Riak and Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth, according to a Treasury statement on Wednesday. The measures were also imposed on former head of the army Paul Malong, who was dismissed by Kiir in May. Three South Sudan-based companies owned or controlled by Riak were also sanctioned.
South Sudan erupted into civil war in 2013, just two years after declaring its independence from the north. The ongoing conflict has left tens of thousands of people dead and created a humanitarian crisis as more than 3.5 million people fled their homes.
“These actions send a clear message to those enriching themselves at the expense of the South Sudanese people that we will not let them exploit the U.S. financial system to move and hide the proceeds of their corruption and malign behavior,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
The sanctions block all assets of the individuals and entities and prohibit American citizens from engaging with them. The three men are also barred from entering the U.S.
Additionally, Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued a warning about South Sudanese senior political figures who may attempt to use the U.S. financial system for money laundering, according to the department.
Lueth dismissed the sanctions, saying they were aimed at derailing an ongoing peace process in the nation with sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil reserves.
“We will continue with the implementation of the agreement because after all,
what is it when I am economically sanctioned?” Lueth said by phone from South Sudan’s capital, Juba. “What do I have even in America, or in Europe or outside South Sudan? Whatever little I have is with me here in South Sudan.”
Three years ago, the U.S. also imposed sanctions on rebel leader Major-General James Koang Chuol and Sudan People’s Liberation Army Major-General Santino Deng Wol.