October 11, 2019 (Washington D.C.) — Today, the United States placed sanctions on Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali, widely known as Al-Cardinal, a tycoon with ties to the U.S., UK, and UAE.
Today’s action by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) target Al-Cardinal and his network of businesses, and come in the wake of two recent investigative reports by The Sentry “The Taking of South Sudan” and “Al-Cardinal: South Sudan’s Original Oligarch,” that detailed the business activities of Al-Cardinal, among others, and urged governments to sanction him and his networks.
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Joshua White, Director of Policy and Analysis at The Sentry, said: “The Sentry applauds today’s action by the Department of the Treasury, which should serve as a warning to the financial facilitators and commercial enablers of corrupt South Sudanese elites that they will lose access to the dollar unless they cease doing business that funds violence in the country. The United Kingdom and other European countries, as well as those in the region, should follow suit . . .
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The Sentry’s investigation found that Al-Cardinal has exploited opaque procurement processes, weak oversight institutions, and cozy relationships with South Sudan’s most powerful politicians to line his own pockets.
“A major enabler of corruption and violence for President Salva Kiir’s government,” according to the The Sentry’s reporting, Al-Cardinal has been embroiled in major procurement scandals, set up private businesses with ruthless military generals, imported military equipment during a bloody civil war and landed lucrative contracts linked to the implementation of the peace deal in South Sudan.
The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on two South Sudanese businessmen, Ashraf Seed Ahmed Al-Cardinal and Kur Ajing Ater, for their involvement in bribery, kickbacks and procurement fraud with senior government officials, the Treasury Department said on Friday.
After the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Benjamin Bol Mel, a key adviser to the South Sudanese president, in 2017, Mel used an account in the name of the companies of Al-Cardinal to evade sanctions and store personal funds, the Treasury Department said in a statement.
In early 2019, the South Sudanese government paid millions of dollars to a company owned by Al-Cardinal ostensibly for food, but that in fact was routed to senior South Sudanese government officials, the Treasury Department said. . . .
On October 2, Assistant Secretary Tibor Nagy, the top U.S. diplomat assigned to Africa, conducted a post-UN General Assembly telephonic press briefing and availability for journalists in various Embassies on the continent. Read the full transcript here.
There were a striking number of questions about Sudan and South Sudan, but I thought this was most pertinent:
QUESTION:Okay, I can talk? All right, my name is Emmanuel from Eye Radio in Juba. I believe Mr. Tibor, you have come across the recent report that was released recently by The Sentry about implicating some South Sudanese top government officials and actually come out with recommendations to the U.S. government, so what is your current recommendations?
ASST. SEC. TIBOR NAGY:Thanks very much for raising that. Because I know the people involved in The Sentry very well. As a matter of fact, one of the key people John Prendergast, I have known and respected for a very long time. Our Department of State, U.S. government, we welcome the Sentry’s efforts to bring light to corrupt practices in South Sudan. We know for a long time that there’s been quite a relationship between corruption and conflict, unfortunately. Innocent people have suffered. The United States will very carefully review the material presented and the recommendations in The Sentry report and as you all know, the United States of America maintains the right to use all of the tools available whether diplomatic or whether financial or anything else to respond.
Right now there are allegations, they’re very serious allegations but they do require some careful analysis, evaluation and investigation. Thank you very much, over and out.
So before the “over and out” Asst. Sec. Nagy does commit the US to “very carefully review the material presented and the recommendations” but it is a bit ambiguous as to whether he is committing the US to the next step of “investigation” that he says is “required” since he characterizes the report’s findings as “allegations”.
My gut reaction is to think of Asst. Sec. Nagy as someone who would like us to conduct ourselves well when it comes to underwriting the type of conduct outlined in The Sentry report (although I don’t know him at all nor was I familiar before he was tapped for this job from retirement). At the same time, you don’t make a life as a diplomat without learning to carefully say very little and make it sound like it is more for those who want something enough to hear it. So, how quickly will we do our review/analysis/evaluation? What will we do next? How quickly will we investigate? Will we send the FBI? Career Justice Department prosectors? Alternatively, the Attorney General?
And in South Sudan if Sanitas and Harvin can help Gainful Solutions get U.S. sanctions lifted on Salva Kiir’s regime and persuade the Trump Administration to spend more on counterterrorism through Kiir, perhaps there could be similar opportunities available in Juba advising the SPLA.
With two decades of experience in the industry, Mr. Harvin has provided strategic communications solutions in over 60 countries. He is a founding Partner at Sanitas International, a global strategic communication, public affairs, digital media and political advisory firm based in Washington DC. Mr. Harvin is also a Partner at Barbaricum, a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business and SBA certified HUBZone which provides advisory services to the US Government.
Mr. Harvin, who was recognized as one of the top public relations practitioners under 40 by PRWeek in 2013, has served the White House and has held senior communications and public affairs positions with the Secretaries of Defense and Veteran Affairs, Members of Congress and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. He has represented multiple Heads of State, corporations, and sovereign governments in emerging markets around the globe.
Mr. Harvin serves as a Board Member and Advisers to the Washington Inter-Governmental Professional Group, a DC-based organization with over 3,000 members from the private sector, diplomatic community and staff members from Congress and the Federal Agencies. He is a Member of the Board of Advisers for the Department of Communications at Georgia Southern University, is a Member of the Board of Advisers for The Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage (“ARCH”) International, Inc. and is an active member of the Public Relations Society of America. Mr. Harvin is a native of South Carolina, he resides in Washington DC.
In 2013, Mr. Harvin presented as a panel expert on the influence of social media in the Middle East at SXSW during the presentation “I Overthrew My Government: Now What?”
Founded in 2016, Vanguard Africa represents the synthesis of best practices in campaign management with the mission-driven focus of a pro-democracy organization. We have convened previously isolated networks — campaign consultants, government and public relations experts, business leaders and human rights advocates — to provide unrivaled access and strategic solutions for pro-democracy leaders.
Executive Director Jeffrey Smith is an experienced human rights and democracy in Africa hand. (Perhaps someday independent South Sudan will have its first elections and Vanguard can get involved.)
Two years after theArab Spring,questions still remain as to how much social media actually helped fuel and drive the uprisings that arose in Tunisia and swept across the region. But regardless of what happened during those Twitter-fueled revolutions, what’s happened afterward?
That’s what social media analytics firmCrimson HexagonandSanitas Internationalwanted to find out when it decided to analyze tweets coming out ofEgypt,Libyaand evenSyria, where there still is a war going on. The results of its 3-month study, which will be discussed ina panelatSXSWon Sunday, underscore the changes these countries are undergoing.
The Gainful Solutions-Sanitas deal was announced appropriately enough through Politicowith a professional spin on Gainful Solutions “amending” the original contract with Salva Kiir under which they received the initial $1.2M non refundable cash payment from the Kiir government.
Those that are interested enough to follow the links and read the documents will notice that the “subcontract” goes well beyond the actual contract, raising the question of whether Sanitas could be paid to say things in Washington by Gainful Solutions that Kiir did not commit to in his contract (the April 2 contract initially paid , or the May 7 substitute).
This is the Prime Contract scope of work:
The Consultant services will include, but not necessarily be limited to, thefollowing:
1 Open a channel of communication between President Kiir and President Trump with the objective of persuading President Trump and his administration to expand economic and political relations with South Sudan, and supporting American private sector investment in South Sudan in oil, natural resources, energy, gas, mining, and other areas.
2 Improve bilateral relations between the United States and South Sudan.
3 Address sanction issues.
4 Seek the support of the Trump administration to unite the various ethnic groups of the country in order to build a stable and prosperous country.
5 Mobilize American companies to invest in the oil. natural resources, and other sectors
6 Persuade the Trump administration to open a military relationship with South Sudan in order to enhance the fight against terrorism and promote regional stability.
The Consultant will act as the agents of the GOSS, Office of the President, to facilitate and negotiate with American and Western companies for investment in South Sudan. The Consultant shall be entitled to certain residuals, compensation, commissions, or shareholding resulting from its facilitation and negotiation with American and Western businesses.
The Services will also include any other consulting tasks which the Parties may agree on.
In an exclusive interview with Eye Radio yesterday, Ambassador Ranneberger admitted that the first draft of the contract that was brought to the attention of the public had the provision to stop or block the formation of the hybrid court.
“There was a bit of a mix up with the first draft of the contract and it got published, but you can look at our contract on the website –which the President [Kiir] has approved, and it says nothing about the hybrid court,” Ranneberger said Thursday.
He, however, confirmed that part of the campaign will include convincing US to ease sanctions on South Sudanese leaders.
#SouthSudan – let me be clear that concern with the July “subcontract” is that Gainful Solutions is paying Sanitas for int’l media spin + DC lobbying asserting Kiir’s “efforts” to fully implement R-ARCSS when that is not what Kiir has paid and will pay Gainful Solutions for. 1/
So money changed hands on a deal that explicitly was for work to squelch hybrid court. After international media reporting and backlash it was “cancelled” with no repayment and a substitute signed that dropped explicit mention of squelching court but is not contradictory to it.
6. The Consultant will charge the Client a flat fee of $3.7 million dollars for the services (the “Compensation”) for this two-year Contract.
7. The parties acknowledge that $1.2 million dollar’s of the Compensation has already been paid to the Consultant as ofthe date hereof, as a non-refundable retainer. The Consultant will invoice Client quarterly for amounts due.
“I’m doubtful the revised contract means a substantive change to the lobbying deal,” Klem Ryan, former coordinator of the UN Security Council Panel of Experts for South Sudan, told Reuters.
“The rewording seems to be a response to the negative publicity that both the South Sudanese government and those associated with Gainful Solutions received, but not a rejection of the lobbying efforts.”
Rights groups accused the government of paying to avoid justice. The new contract was “a slap in the face to victims of the horrific crimes that have been committed in South Sudan,”said Elise Keppler, associate director of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.
The government did not respond to requests for comment on the old contract or the new one.
Adding to a firestorm of criticism since the related Foreign Agent Registration Act filings from April 18 hit the press last week, a coalition of South Sudanese civil society groups has demanded that the contract be cancelled. Susan D. Page, the inaugural U.S. Ambassador to independent South Sudan called the contract “very disturbing and disappointing” on Twitter and former Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard called it “disgusting”. Our current Ambassador is quoted below explaining why he is disturbed.
6. List all employees who render services to the registrant directly in furtherance of the interests of any of the foreign principals in other than a clerical, secretarial, or in a related or similar capacity
Here are some links for a flavor of what seems to be as controversial a Foreign Agent Registration Act filing as I have seen:
The U.S. government, which backs the peace agreement, provided $4.8 million in 2016 through the African Union to set up the court, a State Department spokesman confirmed toForeign Policyin email.“The project is ongoing,”the spokesman said.
The lobbying contract provides an unusually candid glimpse into the South Sudanese government’s aims to undercut a peace deal it has committed to. Some current and former U.S. officials are outraged at the former diplomats involved in the contract for accepting millions of dollars from Kiir, whose government is accused of widespread human rights violations during the country’s five-year-long civil war.
US Ambassador to South Sudan, Thomas Hushek, described the contract with the lobby group as disturbing.
“This, to me, is very disturbing because this is a commitment made in the peace agreement. The hybrid court is part and parcel of chapter five of the peace agreement,” Hushek said, according to Eye Radio in Juba.
Beyond the outragethat has focused on the moral wrongs of any effort to block the hybrid court, the contract may expose its parties to legal peril in two distinct areas.
First, the contract’s clear intent to obstruct the formation of a key institution required by the peace agreement, the hybrid court, raises the prospect of sanctions pursuant to presidential Executive Order 13664, which permits sanctions against:
any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State…to be responsible for…(B) actions or policiesthat threaten transitional agreementsor undermine democratic processes or institutions in South Sudan; (C)actions or policies that have the purpose or effectof expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan orobstructingreconciliation orpeace talks or processes.
Executive Order 13664 allows for the freezing of the property of any person so designated under the order. It may be applied to both U.S. and non-U.S. persons, whether within the United States or abroad.
Thesecondarea of legal jeopardy concerns three potential areas of non-compliance with the FARA: [issues of completeness and accuracy of disclosure in the filings and of late filing].
Amb. Ranneberger and Connie Newman at polling place in Nairobi, during Dec. 27, 2007 Kenyan election
Ranneberger’s “great friend and mentor” Connie Newman–his choice as lead delegate for IRI to observe Kenya’s ill-fated 2007 election–is separately registered as a “consultant” on the South Sudan deal [“As an advisor to Gainful Solutions, I will travel to South Sudan with the partners of Gainful Solutions for a meeting with President Kir, The meeting will discuss how to improve the relationship between the U.S. and South Sudan and thus promote peace and stability. Other work or meetings on my behalf with Gainful Solutions will be determined on a case by case basis. There is thus far no set agenda for future activity.” For a $5,000 fee.] as discussed in Aly Verjee’s blog post. Newman is a longtime lobbyist who has been Africa lead for the Carmen Group after serving as Asst. Secretary of State for African Affairs from June 2004 to April 2005 (with Ranneberger serving as Principle Deputy Asst.Sec.) and Assistant Administrator for Africa for USAID from 2001. As a domestic lobbyist in 1991 after a long pioneering career in federal service she was given high credit in GOP circles for helping to persuade the NAACP not to oppose the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall.
Everyone is rightfully outraged. More than 400,000 have died since South Sudan descended into civil war and millions more were displaced.
These revelations also highlight the many challenges the court is likely to face if and when it is eventually set up. South Sudanese political elites (on both sides of the post-2014 conflict) are not particularly keen on facing justice for atrocities committed against civilians and armed actors. It is also unclear if Juba’s friends in Kampala, Nairobi, or Addis have any incentive to inject yet another variable into the ongoing efforts to establish a modicum of stability in South Sudan.
Moral outrage alone will not move the needle. The court’s success will depend on how much pivotal actors within IGAD are willing to lean on Machar and Kiir.
Readout of Secretary Kerry’s Call with South Sudanese President Kiir
April 26, 2014
Secretary Kerry spoke today with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to express grave concern about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, including recent violence in Bentiu and Bor and the deliberate targeting of civilians by armed groups on both sides of the conflict. Secretary Kerry welcomed the Government of South Sudan’s decision to release the four senior political officials who had been in detention since December. He urged President Kiir to stop military offensives and to adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, and noted U.S. demands that anti-government forces do the same. Both Secretary Kerry and President Kiir expressed their support for the IGAD-led peace process. Secretary Kerry noted the important role played by the UN Mission in South Sudan, denounced recent attacks on UNMISS bases and personnel, and encouraged President Kiir to ensure full and unfettered access throughout South Sudan for UNMISS, the African Union Commission of Inquiry, and the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism.