US President Donald Trump this 2017 started by signing Executive orders and repealing some of Obama’s laws. And one such law was sections of the Dodd- Frank Act signed by Obama in 2010. This law -supported by both Democrats and Republicans alike back then- was meant to regulate US companies that get their minerals from the DRC. These companies -like Apple for instance – had to get certification to substantiate that the supply chain of their minerals are “conflict free”. This in an attempt to reduce cases of armed conflict, child miners, child soldiers, rape and illicit smuggling in Eastern Congo. A trend that spread to Europe and East Asia stretching out to companies such as Samsung.
It is no secret that the only incentive that makes the 21st Century conflict ‘sustainable’ is the presence of Profits – Huge profits. As companies get their raw materials at very cheap prices, armed groups make their illicit profits – or in some instances receive ammunition supplies in exchange. And the need for this profits fuel the conflict even further. Although the Dodd- Frank Act would later receive it’s fair share of praise and criticism, we might not fully appreciate the extent to which it would have brought peace now that it has been repealed. But it might give a foundation in trying to revisit the conflict in South Sudan.
Previously in this column I gave a brief background to understanding the conflict situation in South Sudan. But it is so unfortunate that the situation has deteriorated so direly as the World watches. The youngest Nation in the World is today hanging on a thread – facing a possible genocide on one hand and a famine on the other. A situation that spills over to neighboring Countries in the form of refugee crisis and arms proliferation.
For a long time now we have limited the approach to solving this conflict to a Salva Kiir – Riek Machar equation. And by extension, a Dinka – Nuer equation. But it is high time that the South Sudan arithmetic be looked at holistically. Factoring in the aspect of ‘Profits’ and the ‘war profiteers’ involved. Africa needs to move beyond the comfort of believing that a Country only attains peace when two or more Political heads sign ‘peace deals’ – and actually admit that she needs to dissect the causes of conflict and address them. It goes beyond saying that both Salvar Kiir and Riek Machar are not interested in a prosperous South Sudan, rather, their only interest is in the ‘profits’ – ‘war profits’. And who else is involved? According to Enough! Project that has done research on the same, the network is comprised of government officials, generals, businessmen, foreign investors, banks, oil and mining companies, money transfer entities, and individuals connected to the international financial systems. Thus, it is very normal to see family and friends related to the two Political antagonists from South Sudan living lavishly and spending heavily on parties, big cars, buildings and travels oversees thanks to their accomplices in this ‘supply chain’
The best – and only – way of dealing with the South Sudan crisis at the moment is to chock the illicit financial flows.
If the African Union was functioning, by now neighboring Countries facilitating the illicit financial flows, trade and investments, and also movement of these warlords – would have been put on the radar. And the AU should have gone a step further, at the UN to demand answers on how some of the banks and foreign investors involved actually come from the same Countries that have permanent membership at the UN Security Council.
In bringing humanity and sanity back to South Sudan, there has to be financial accountability by all parties involved, legal accountability, and political accountability. And in the process of sustainable peacemaking and peacekeeping, ‘war profits’ MUST be chocked off the ‘war profiteers’ that the leaders of South Sudan and their accomplices have become.
Referring back to the Dodd- Frank Act, it is best for international diplomats and other political players to consider policies that put in check banks, international financial institutions, international investors, money transfer entities, and connected individuals to only facilitate transactions that are ‘conflict- free’ and that don’t in any way, fuel wars.
In conclusion, the East African Community (EAC) and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), have a very big task ahead of them. Having South Sudan, Burundi and Somalia in the same region is not a walk in the park. This coupled with the relatively peaceful and stable Countries such as Kenya moving into election periods.