Clooney calls for global action as he unveils South Sudan corruption report

US actor George Clooney takes part in a press conference in central London after presenting a report on atrocities in South Sudan. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2019

Clooney calls for global action as he unveils South Sudan corruption report

  • Clooney called on the US and EU to target those involved and their networks with tougher sanctions as his Africa-focused investigative project The Sentry released its latest findings
  • The report accuses Dar Petroleum Corp, the largest multinational oil consortium in South Sudan — led by a Chinese state-owned oil company — of providing support to deadly militias

LONDON: Hollywood star George Clooney on Thursday urged the international community to “step up” as he unveiled a report alleging links between global corporations, tycoons and governments and rampant corruption in South Sudan which has extracted billions of dollars in profits.
Clooney called on the United States and European Union to target those involved and their networks with new and tougher sanctions as his Africa-focused investigative project The Sentry released its latest findings on webs of corruption in the country.
“I believe they should do much more,” he told a news conference in London with his prominent human rights lawyer wife Amal Clooney seated in the front row.
“I don’t know if they can stop it but they can sure make it a lot harder,” said Clooney, a longtime campaigner for human rights in the region, best known for his advocacy in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.
The actor and activist co-founded The Sentry in 2015 with former US official John Prendergast.
Its 64-page report — “The Taking of South Sudan” — accuses multinational corporations and individuals of being “war profiteers” complicit with South Sudanese politicians and military officials in “ravaging the world’s newest nation.”
“Nearly every instance of confirmed or alleged corruption or financial crime in South Sudan examined by The Sentry has involved links to an international corporation, a multinational bank, a foreign government or high-end real estate abroad,” it stated.
Clooney said the profiteers include “Chinese and Malaysian oil giants, British tycoons, and American businessmen.”
“Without their support these atrocities could never have happened at this scale,” he added.
The report accuses Dar Petroleum Corp, the largest multinational oil consortium in South Sudan — led by a Chinese state-owned oil company — of providing “direct support to deadly militias.”
Meanwhile Chinese investors formed a company with South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s daughter and acquired several mining licenses in the country just weeks before the military reportedly drove thousands of people from the land where they held a permit, the research claims.
AFP sought comment from the consortium and the government, but they declined to comment, noting they had not read the report.
The probe also alleged an American arms trafficker tried to sell a trove of weapons to a South Sudanese warlord, and two British citizens formed an oil company with a warlord accused of forcibly recruiting thousands of child soldiers.
It said a $65 million scandal involving a South Sudanese general and a British tycoon illustrated “the impunity enjoyed by kleptocrats and their international collaborators.”
The Sentry is composed of financial investigators, international human rights lawyers, and regional experts as well as former law enforcement agents, intelligence officers, policymakers, investigative journalists and banking professionals.
It has previously reported on corruption and human rights abuses by South Sudan’s civilian and military leaders, but Clooney said its new strategy was to “follow the money.”
“If you can’t shame them (officials), then you can shame the people who do business with them,” he told reporters.
“You can make it difficult for certain financial institutions to look the other way.
“That can be an effective tool — a much more effective tool than trying to shame a warlord.”


Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

Updated 12 min 12 sec ago

Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

  • Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio is still endemic
  • Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country since Jan.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani health officials on Saturday launched a seven-day vaccination campaign against polio as part of efforts aimed at eliminating the crippling disease amid a steady decline in fatalities and infections from the coronavirus, which had recently overwhelmed the country’s fragile health system.
The anti-polio campaign, which began amid tight security, aims to vaccinate as many as 34 million children across Pakistan, including former Taliban strongholds bordering Afghanistan, a government statement said.
Medical workers participating in the drive against polio were seen adhering to social distancing regulations as they wore face masks and gloves while going house-to-house to avoid a spike in coronavirus cases.
“I am hopeful that parents will continue to realize the importance of vaccinating their children during this campaign,” said Faisal Sultan, an adviser to the prime minister on health issues.
According to Rana Safdar, who heads the government’s polio program, similar campaigns against polio will be launched in October, November and December.
Earlier Saturday, Pakistan’s military said Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist, praised Islamabad’s success in the fight against coronavirus in a telephone call to the country’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. It said Gates also discussed the resumption of the drive against polio.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio — a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the polio virus — is still endemic. The nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has helped Pakistan and other places worldwide fight the disease.
Pakistan had hoped to eliminate the disease by 2018, when only 12 cases were reported. But there was a surge in new cases the following year. Since January, Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country, including the northwestern region bordering Afghanistan.
Pakistani Taliban and other militants regularly stage attacks on polio teams and security forces escorting them because they claim the anti-polio drive is part of an alleged Western conspiracy to sterilize children or collect intelligence. Attacks on polio teams increased after it was revealed that a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign was used as a ruse by the CIA in the hunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by US commandos in 2011 in Pakistan.
Pakistan halted the drive against polio in March and resumed it last month amid a decline in infections and fatalities from COVID-19.
On Saturday, Pakistan reported only 9 new deaths from the new virus in the past 24 hours, increasing the country’s total of COVID-19 deaths to 6,162. So far, Pakistan has reported 288,047 cases and officials say about 93% of the patients recovered since February, when the country reported its first confirmed case.