NGO names EU banks allegedly tied to violence in African state

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Sixty major EU banks and investors have been accused of fomenting conflict in South Sudan, where the UN has regularly condemned horrific deaths, systematic rape, and population displacement.

The banks, which include Germany’s Allianz and Deutsche Bank as well as Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo, have invested over €700 million ($751 million) in two companies linked to human rights abuses in the landlocked African country, according to a report released on Tuesday by the international nonprofit organisation Global Witness.

It also named Crédit Agricole Group, a French international bank, as one of the biggest financiers.

Despite US sanctions, the NGO alleges that the two main international oil corporations operating in South Sudan, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Malaysian state-owned business Petronas, are still being funded by EU investors.

“European creditors have also provided over €4 billion [over $4 billion] worth of loans and underwriting services to the two companies in under seven years,” according to a report by Global Witness.

In 2018, Washington sanctioned 15 South Sudanese oil companies, including Dar Petroleum Operating Company, an oil and gas consortium managed by CNPC and Petronas. According to the US State Department, the South Sudanese government was utilising the firms’ earnings to acquire weapons and fund irregular militias that threatened the country’s peace, security, and stability.

South Sudan entered a civil war in 2013 as a result of a political disagreement between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his former vice president, Riek Machar. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the fight.

The warring factions reached a power-sharing agreement in August 2018, which ended the civil war. However, the UN has reported that state actors continue to commit grave human rights violations, with 714 incidents of violence affecting 3,469 civilians last year. Around 1,600 South Sudanese were killed, 988 injured, and 501 abducted, it added.

Global Witness insisted in a report released on Tuesday that EU banks’ continuous engagement in the South Sudanese oil sector, from which they have profited since the conflict began nearly a decade ago, violates human rights commitments.

“Deutsche Bank, Allianz, Intesa Sanpaolo, and the rest have been funding companies linked to unspeakable aggression against civilians in South Sudan for years, yet they’ve done nothing but sit back and watch money roll in,” said Aurelie Skrobik, corporate accountability campaigner at Global Witness.

“We urgently need European governments to support a new law that could prevent banks and investors from financing companies linked to human rights and environmental abuses,” he said.