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In today’s Foreign Relations hearing, former State and Treasury official details current failures, challenges, and a new approach for U.S. sanctions policy to target leaders and facilitators profiting from corruption, atrocities and armed violence

June 8, 2016 (Washington DC) --  A modernized approach to U.S. sanctions policy would create real consequences for kleptocratic leaders and their international facilitators responsible for mass atrocities and armed violence in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Enough Project’s Brad Brooks-Rubin testified to the Senate today.

“As the Panama Papers revelations and our the work of our investigative initiative The Sentry investigations show,” Brooks-Rubin stated in his testimony, “the networks involved are using many of the same types of transactions that narco-traffickers, terrorist networks, and corrupt regimes in other parts of the world are using, and against which we have deployed the full array of tools of financial pressure. The violent kleptocracies in Africa all come back to money, and as a result, we have the power to use sanctions and other tools to disrupt them.”

In the Foreign Relations hearing on “U.S. Sanctions Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Brooks-Rubin, Director of Policy at the Enough Project and its new investigative initiative The Sentry, reviewed successes and challenges in current sanctions policy, and presented recommendations that would unleash more effective and targeted financial pressures and enforcement measures for countries caught in the nexus of corruption and violence like Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A former official at the State Department and the Department of the Treasury, Brooks-Rubin joined Ambassador Princeton Lyman and other distinguished witnesses in a dynamic discussion before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, Senator Jeff Flake presiding.

Selected excerpts from official testimony by Brad Brooks-Rubin:

  • “Men, women, and children across sub-Saharan Africa pay a price every day for the unchecked violence and resource theft committed by leaders who do not believe they will face real consequences for their actions.”
  • “Quite simply, we do not approach sanctions with respect to sub-Saharan Africa the way we do other critical national security and foreign policy crises.”
  • “Sanctions can and do have beneficial impact when they are carefully designed and strongly enforced.”  
  • “The simple fact is that we can do so much to modernize our sanctions approach for greater impact. But we need to choose sanctions and other financial pressures that will have the greatest economic impact on the particular networks in the area we’re targeting. We need to look beyond the pressure measures to the broader foreign policy goals and diplomatic engagement that promote good governance. And we must do more to mitigate different types of unintended consequences.”
  • “Regimes from Sudan to Zimbabwe have blamed sanctions for all manner of economic problems, many of which have nothing to do with sanctions at all but instead result from the authoritarian leaders within these regimes and the catastrophic economic decisions that they have made. But when we fail to explain how the sanctions work and show that they can evolve and be nimble over time, rather than become permanent forms of punishment, we give the likes of Bashir and Mugabe easy wins.”
  • “Sanctions have become the non-military tool of choice of the U.S. government to try to deliver those types of consequences across the globe, but sanctions in sub-Saharan Africa have thus far generally failed to achieve the desired impact. This is in large part because we repeatedly use the same types of tools.  We do not target key decision makers and their international facilitators. We rarely follow up or enforce sanctions with further actions. We do not integrate sanctions with other tools designed to promote improved governance. And we do not sufficiently mitigate the negative consequences associated with sanctions.”
  • “The failure has not been with our choice to use sanctions. The failure thus far, which can be readily addressed for the future, is in the limited way in which we have viewed the problems and use sanctions as a tool with sub-Saharan Africa. We have not yet approached these countries with the serious economic lens they deserve, especially before situations become crises. As a result, we have thus far deployed only a limited selection of sanctions measures or approaches in sub-Saharan Africa.”
  • “As of today, at least with respect to addressing conflicts and violent kleptocracies across the continent, sanctions and financial pressure are under-leveraged.”
  • “Too often we underestimate or misunderstand the sources of violence, thinking of them simply as brutal conflicts between rival ethnic groups or strongmen seeking power. At the Enough Project, we analyze five countries—Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic, and Somalia—through the lens of what we call “violent kleptocracy.” We view these violent kleptocracies as systems in which those in power and their networks of facilitators and enablers engage in grand corruption and foment violence. The state is completely hijacked to these purposes.  And there is little to no meaningful governance or public service provision to benefit the people.  Violence and mass corruption are not aberrations of the system; they are the system itself. The particular structure, actors, and specific means of implementing violent kleptocracy may differ between countries, but they all feature these hallmarks, as do many others on the continent.”
  • “In my experience, as a former attorney at the U.S. Treasury Department advising the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and as an officer in the Economic Bureau of the State Department focused on natural resources and conflict, I have worked on many such sanctions efforts related to the continent. I have seen, when a crisis emerges, from Zimbabwe to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to South Sudan to Burundi, we almost immediately look in the sanctions toolbox. But despite the existence of good examples and incredible expertise within the interagency, we too often end up resigned to using the same necessary but insufficient tools: limited numbers of asset freezes, travel bans, and, on occasion, an arms embargo. These tools tend to be long on message and short on financial impact. When these sanctions measures are not flanked well by other efforts, they frequently fail.”
  • “Clear information about which parties are and are not subject to sanctions designations can help mitigate many unintended and unnecessary consequences for sanctions.”
  • “We have not yet brought to sub-Saharan Africa the same sense of urgency to counter threats related to terrorism or drug trafficking.”

Six key recommendations, to deliver an effective and modernized sanctions approach in sub-Saharan Africa:

  1. Ensure that sanctions fit within a broader policy approach with clear policy goals;
  2. Develop better intelligence and expertise on a broader set of potential targets that ensure the actions we take will fulfill the policy goals we are seeking to achieve and disrupt the financial flows involved;
  3. Employ modern sanctions tools beyond targeted designations and travel bans;
  4. Build on the actions we take and have the courage to double down at key junctures rather than easing pressure;
  5. Prioritize civil and criminal enforcement actions under these programs to prevent them from becoming empty gestures; and
  6. Take better steps to keep sanctions temporary and mitigate negative impacts.

Types of critical actions recommended to directly increase the impact of sanctions in sub-Saharan Africa:

  • Use the particular kinds of designation criteria that are designed to deliver financial impact, such as for acts of public corruption and looting of state assets, and go after much high-level targets overall;
  • Keep the pressure on designated individuals and entities at key junctures and enforce the sanctions we put forward;
  • Employ sectoral and even secondary sanctions as needed to act specifically on key economic vulnerabilities and pressure banks to take these crises seriously;
  • Push the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to look beyond drugs and terrorism when acting against money laundering on the continent, something it has never done;
  • Develop public reporting requirements for private-sector actors, particularly investors, in target countries, as used effectively in Burma;
  • Integrate sanctions more holistically with broader policy efforts advancing good governance and responsible business;
  • Issue strong messages against de-risking; and
  • Pass the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and allocate to the Department of the Treasury and other U.S. government agencies a greater share of intelligence and investigative resources that can be dedicated to sub-Saharan Africa.

Complete SFRC testimony of Mr. Brooks-Rubin: http://eno.ug/1RWA8MP

Hearing details and video:  http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/us-sanctions-policy-in-sub-saharan-africa-060816

Interview availability: Mr. Brooks-Rubin will be available for selected media interviews following the hearing. For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org

The Sentry seeks to dismantle the networks of perpetrators, facilitators, and enablers who fund and profit from Africa’s deadliest conflicts. Our investigations follow the money from conflict zones and into global economic centers, using open source data collection, field research, and state-of-the-art network analysis technology. The Sentry provides information and analysis that engages civil society and media, supports regulatory action and prosecutions, and provides policymakers with the information they require to take effective action. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is an initiative of the Enough Project and Not On Our Watch (NOOW), with its implementing partner C4ADS. Learn more at TheSentry.org