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South Sudan hires US lobby group to block war crimes court


FILE PHOTO: South Sudanese President Salva Kiir addresses crowds at the John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan, October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Jok Solomun/File Photo

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has hired an American lobby group run by a former ambassador to block the creation of a court to judge war crimes in the conflict-torn nation.

According to a contract between the government and the lobby group, Gainful Solutions, published online by the US Department of Justice, the $3.7 million (3.3-million euro) deal was signed on April 2.

The contract states that Gainful Solutions, owned by former US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger, was hired to “improve relations with the United States, both politically and economically”.

This includes persuading Trump’s government to “reverse sanctions and prevent further sanctions” and to mobilise American investment in South Sudan’s oil.

The contract also states that the lobby group must “delay and ultimately block the establishment of the hybrid court” envisaged in a peace deal signed in September 2018.

The creation of the African Union-South Sudanese hybrid court dates back to an earlier peace agreement in 2015, a bid to gain justice for atrocities committed during a war that is now in its sixth year.

Conflict erupted in December 2013 after Kiir accused his longtime rival Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.

Battles between those from Machar’s Nuer community and Kiir’s Dinka people were characterised by brutal violence on both sides, rape and UN warnings about “ethnic cleansing”.

The war has killed around 380,000 people, forcing more than four million South Sudanese — almost a third of the population — to flee their homes.

Kiir and Machar are meant to reunite in a power-sharing government in less than two weeks, under the terms of the September deal.

Implementation of the peace deal is running behind, however, and Machar has called for a delay.

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