Enough Project (2015). Creating a Cost for Those Destroying South Sudan
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President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Kenya and Ethiopia comes at a time of deep crisis in neighboring South Sudan. American contributions to the massive humanitarian response and support for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediation effort to end South Sudan’s 19-month war have been considerable. However, the peace process has been undermined by competing mediation efforts by various African interlocutors which allows the warring parties to “forum shop” and demonstrate a complete lack of will to implement anything they agree to, particularly a string of agreements to cease hostilities.
The recently expanded IGAD Plus mediation structure6 will hopefully address the forum-shopping concerns. However, much more work is needed to develop the essential ingredient for a durable and lasting agreement: the leverage necessary to alter the calculations of the parties from pursuing war to pursuing peace. The leaders of the two sides fight on in the belief that there will be no personal consequence, and outside actors collaborate in the destruction of this embryonic state through their military support and collusion in vast corruption, both past and present. Without a wider strategy of leverage-building financial pressures and a push to secure regional and broader international cooperation for that approach, it will be difficult to address the deep political divisions fueled by a violent struggle for the spoils of a corrupt state.
In South Sudan, corruption and illicit financial flows, the offshoring of assets by elites, large-scale abuse and mismanagement of the extractives industry, security sector fraud, the convergence of licit and illicit systems, disguised beneficial ownership, and regulatory evasion have all combined to create a kleptocratic governing system. President Obama’s trip offers an opportunity to reorient U.S. government policies to move beyond threats and focus on a much more robust strategy of disrupting and ultimately dismantling this system, which is funding, fueling, and profiting from the conflict in South Sudan.