U.S. Sanctions South Sudan Officials Accused of Corruption While Many Starve

A man in South Sudan sits next to his son stricken with Cholera / Getty Images
A man in South Sudan sits next to his son stricken with Cholera / Getty Images

The U.S. government announced Wednesday that the Treasury Department has placed targeted sanctions on South Sudanese officials and companies, saying the targets personally profited from a climate of corruption at the expense of many of the country's residents.

The Treasury Department said the sanctions were in response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in South Sudan, and the role of government officials "enriching themselves at the expense of the South Sudanese people," the Washington Post reported.

The Treasurey Department has warned U.S. financial institutions that the identified individuals may try to use the U.S. financial system to move or hide proceeds of public corruption.

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The individuals sanctioned are current government officials Gen. Malek Reuben Riak Rengu, the army’s deputy chief of staff in charge of military procurement, and Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s information minister. Also sanctioned was Paul Malong Awan who was chief of staff of the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army until President Salva Kiir fired him in May. Three companies owned or controlled by Riak were sanctioned as well, according to the Post.

Nearly half of the 13 million people in South Sudan currently deal with severe hunger, and four million have been forced from their homes as civil war plagues the country. The government and rebel groups have been fighting, more often than not, since the country gained its independence and split from Sudan in 2011.

"The United States stands ready to impose other measures against those responsible for undermining the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan," State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. "As the Advisory demonstrates, the United States is committed to increasing scrutiny on those who enrich themselves through corruption while the South Sudanese people suffer through economic hardship and a dire humanitarian crisis."