— -- Hollywood actor and global activist George Clooney unveiled findings today of a two-year undercover investigation that he said paints a disturbing picture of war profiteering carried out by South Sudan's top government leaders.
“This morning we’re prepared to give evidence of massive criminal behavior by the president of South Sudan and by his opposition, the ousted vice president of South Sudan and their generals,” Clooney told reporters in Washington, D.C., this morning. “The simple fact is they are stealing the money to fund their militias to attack and kill one another.”
The investigation was released by the Sentry, an organization co-founded by Clooney that “seeks to disrupt and dismantle the networks of military officers, government officials, businessmen, arms dealers, bankers and other enablers who benefit financially and politically from Africa’s deadliest conflicts,” according to its website. The Sentry is an initiative of the Enough Project and Not on Our Watch.
According to Clooney, South Sudanese officials have amassed wealth from arms deals, oil and gambling.
Fellow actor and human rights activist Don Cheadle, who co-founded Not on Our Watch with Clooney and other celebs, also discussed the report today, saying, “These families of several top officials we examined live in million-dollar mansions outside of the country. They post videos partying in hotels, driving around in luxury cars while the rest of the people in their country suffer consequences of a brutal civil war and in many places experience near famine conditions.”
The report obtained images of officials’ family members on vacation as well as documentation of their properties abroad. Investigators found that leaders in South Sudan were living lavish lifestyles outside the country, despite their modest salaries. According to the report, one top official, who “makes roughly $45,000 per year through his government salary, has at least two luxurious villas in Uganda in addition to a $2 million mansion in a gated community in Nairobi [Kenya].”
The newly independent country of South Sudan has been engulfed in conflict since 2013. The violence has left tens of thousands of people dead, and nearly half the country’s population requires food assistance.
Clooney said the U.S. can act now or spend the next decade “cleaning up the problem,” warning that “we have seen the influences that can take hold in a failed state.”
He and Cheadle are calling for targeted sanctions and more oversight of banks that are doing business with Sudanese officials.
Clooney and his co-founders at the Sentry are turning over their findings to U.S. officials and will meet later today with President Obama in hopes of spurring action.
“We have the moral obligation and the ability to act,” Clooney said. “We cannot continue to look away. History is watching.”