Case File

Green Horizon: Fueling the Conflict in South Sudan

B. Arneson & Jack Cinamon
Published on
February 6, 2024
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, retired IDF general Israel Ziv, and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit







In 2015, against the backdrop of South Sudan's civil war, and one of the world’s worst food crises, the South Sudanese government launched Green Horizon. Green Horizon is a multi-million dollar farming project operated by Israeli security services firm Global CST, by retired Israeli Defense Forces Major General Israel Ziv.

After securing the contract for the Green Horizon project, Ziv allegedly leveraged his connections within South Sudan's Defense and Agricultural Ministries, the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and Trafigura, a commodity trading company, to orchestrate the sale of $150 million in weapons to both the South Sudanese government and its opposition. Ziv supposedly used the Green Horizon project as ‘cover,’ maintaining relationships through ‘bribery and promises of security support.’

Despite European Union, United States, and United Nations embargoes against South Sudan, the Israeli Defense Export Control Agency (DECA) allegedly continued to grant export licences to Israeli weapons companies through Ziv and Green Horizon. This contravention further fueled the civil war which erupted in 2013, and the humanitarian crisis to follow in South Sudan, leading to the deaths of an estimated 400,000 people as lethal weapons flowed into the conflict zone.

This case represents the longstanding pattern in relations not only between Israel and South Sudan, but between Israel and Africa more broadly. A diplomatic relationship characterised by private entrepreneurs and intermediaries, rather than traditional diplomacy. Arms exports to African countries play a pivotal role in Israel's diplomatic strategy on the continent. Ziv epitomises Israel's middleman approach to diplomacy in Africa.

This disturbing case underscores the complex intersection of geopolitics, private interests, and arms trade, leaving a trail of suffering and human tragedy in its wake.

Case Details

Case details

Seller country
Buyer country
South Sudan
Goods category
Small Arms & Light Weapons, Armoured Vehicles, Ammunition
Equipment sold
Rifles, grenade launchers, shoulder-fired rockets, armored vehicles, ammunition, and more.
Deal value
USD 150 million
Sum involved in corruption
Start year
Outcome status
No legal Investigations Begun



  • Israel Ziv: A retired major general and former head of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Operations Directorate. Ziv is also a prominent Israeli arms dealer with an extensive background in combat and security consulting.

  • Global CST: Israel Ziv's defense consultant company and a part of the Global Group. Global CST has faced sanctions from the United States. The company has a history of human rights abuses in Latin America and has been involved in questionable dealings throughout Africa, including the provision of mercenaries. Notably, Global CST maintains close connections with major arms companies, such as Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries.

  • Trafigura Group Pte Ltd: A major commodity trading company founded in 1993. The Group offers oil and petroleum products; metals, minerals and bulk commodities; and gas, power, and renewables.

  • Trafigura Pte Ltd: Established in 1996, this company is the oil subsidiary of Trafigura Group Pte Ltd.


Summary of Corruption Allegations


Green Horizon, ostensibly an agricultural project, was allegedly a cover used to facilitate the sale of approximately $150 million worth of weapons, including rifles, grenade launchers, and shoulder-fired rockets to South Sudan further exacerbating the conflict between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

The allocation of $45 million for the farming project, Green Horizon, took a dark turn as the payments from oil company Tafigua, intended for the government, were swiftly redirected towards Israel Ziv’s company. The actual total appears to be much higher than the $45 million claimed by Ziv, suggesting either financial irregularities or corruption.

Oil pre-payments, a common practice in the commodities trading sector, made by Trafigua into the South Sudanese central bank were redirected from the revenue account of the government of South Sudan to Global CST. The transfer of around $140 million from the South Sudanese government to Ziv's company, Global CST, closely aligns with the $150 million worth of arms allegedly supplied by Ziv.

While UN reports suggest some agricultural work was underway, doubts were raised by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) regarding the efficacy of the project. According to the US government, Ziv allegedly planned to organise attacks by mercenaries on South Sudanese oil fields and infrastructure, creating a crisis that only his company and affiliates could solve, thus capitalising on the conflict for business opportunities.

The presence of Israeli rifles and ammunition throughout South Sudan raises concerns about the role of Israeli weapons in conflicts, particularly the reported use of Israeli ACE rifles in the 2013 massacre of Nuer citizens in Juba. These revelations prompt a broader examination of Israel's arms exports and their impact on regional stability.



  • OctTrafigura “dedicated” $50 million out of an oil pre-payment to the Green Horizon farming project.
  • OctThat same month, Trafigura transferred $50 million to the government of South Sudan's revenue account at the central bank. Initially, Trafigura were notified that the transfer failed, but it later emerged that the funds were redirected.
  • NovThe government officially contracted an Israeli company, Green Horizon, to help fix the gap in food production.
  • DecThe South Sudanese government awarded Ziv a $45 million contract to implement Green Horizon for a term of five years, a government agricultural project aimed at food security independence.
  • JanIn January 2016, the Ministry of Finance of South Sudan allocated $45 million to Green Horizon. The allocation was taken from a payment of $75 million made by the international commodity trader Trafigura to the Government of South Sudan as a prepayment for crude oil.
  • JanThe Finance Ministry ordered the $45 million transfer from a Trafigura prepayment to be transferred from the central bank to Global’s account. (The fate of the remaining $5 million is unknown.). The bank account name that received payment was in the name of ZIVHG Ltd.
  • MayTrafigura transferred $8.4 million to the central bank, within weeks $8 million was transferred to Global from the central bank.
  • JunTrafigura transferred $81.7 million to the central bank. Again this amount was transferred directly to Global. Nothing was left in the central bank and everything was transferred immediately to Global. Ziv denied knowledge of Global receiving any funds from the Trafigura oil money to the Green Horizon project.
  • JunTrafigura had retained a company, “L.I.O. Ziv Ltd”, to provide local assistance in managing crude oil trades between Trafigura and the Government of South Sudan. This arrangement was brought to an end in May 2017. Trafigura notes that this was an entirely separate commercial arrangement and was unconnected with any other activities of Israel Ziv and related companies in South Sudan.
  • According to a parliamentary budget report, the second phase of Green Horizon was approved. The price tag for the second phase for ‘projected costs’ was $89.75 million.
  • 14 DecThe US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on three individuals pursuant to Executive Order 13664. Israel Ziv and Obac William Olawo, for being leaders of entities whose actions have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan, and Gregory Vasili, for actions that have undermined peace, stability, and security in South Sudan. Ziv’s three companies that form part of Global Group were also sanctioned: Global NTM Ltd., Global Law Enforcement and Security Ltd. and Global IZ Group Ltd. They were added to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN).
  • Obac William Olawo, a South Sudanese arms dealer, faces accusations of engaging in the trade and shipment of arms to South Sudan.
  • Gregory Vasili, another South Sudanese arms dealer and former governor of Gogrial State, has been implicated in arms dealings.
  • Accusations included:
  • 1) The supply of weapons or ammunition in South Sudan, to the government and the opposition.
  • 2) Green Horizon as a ‘cover’ for concealing arms deals
  • 3) Planning attacks on oil fields or infrastructure sites by mercenaries or otherwise
  • 4) Bribing officials of the South Sudan Government.
  • After the sanctions were imposed, Israel’s arms export agency supplied an undoubtedly helpful letter to Ziv stating that ‘as of this day, the Ministry of Defense has not found evidence of unlawful activity in regards to defense exports by Israel Ziv or his companies’. The Israeli business publication Calcalist revealed that no less a figure than South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir had written to Benjamin Netanyahu just days after US sanctions were imposed. Kiir urged the Israeli prime minister to intercede on Ziv’s behalf.
  • 10 MarIn a sworn affidavit, Ziv denies all allegations made by OFAC that resulted in his sanctions. He denies involvement in supplying weapons and ammunition to either the Government of South Sudan or the opposition, asserting that the $150 million transaction couldn't have occurred without alerting the global banking system or any relevant authority. He maintains that the Green Horizon project is authentic and not a front for other activities. Furthermore, he denies any plans to attack oil fields and infrastructure, as well as any connections with individuals Obac William Olawo and Gregory Vasili.
  • 9 AprTrafigura admitted to having used the services of Ziv’s companies, LIO Ziv Ltd in order to obtain local assistance in the management of crude oil exchanges between Trafigura and the government of South Sudan. Trafigura also admitted they were aware that part of the oil pre-payment was to be allocated to the Green Horizon project, but reaffirmed it was ‘not a partner in this project’.
  • 14 JulTrafigura announced that it would abolish the practice of using intermediaries.
  • 17 JulIn a comprehensive report by investigative journalist Sam Mednick for OCCRP, it was revealed that Ziv played a key role in channeling money to the central bank of South Sudan for the sale of Israeli weapons. Contrary to the initial goal of alleviating hunger, as envisioned by Green Horizon project, the weapons, financed through Ziv's networks within South Sudan's ministries and Trafigura, not only fell short of addressing the hunger issue but also escalated the lethal conflict between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.
  • Mathew Gordon Udo, who has held the position of undersecretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for nearly ten years, mentioned that $35 million was assigned to the project, and an additional $10 million was allocated to the training facility for veterans. This sum corresponds to the $45 million contribution provided by the South Sudanese government to Green Horizon.
  • Erneo Balasio Peter Tombe serves as the government coordinator for Green Horizon, but he possesses limited knowledge of its financial matters, noting that all financial processes are handled in Israel.
  • Trafigura's involvement with LIO Ziv Ltd in overseeing crude oil transactions prompted inquiries, despite Trafigura maintaining that it constituted a distinct commercial agreement unrelated to Ziv's other ventures. As outlined by Global Group, the project aimed to finance a five-year budget commencing in 2016.
  • 19 AugIn an interview with The Real News Network, journalist Sam Mednick, explained that the agribusiness project she visited was divided into two farms, one used to grow vegetables and the other one was a cover-up farm.
  • 25 FebThe US Treasury Department lifted its sanctions on Ziv and his companies. All three individuals and Ziv’s three Israeli companies that form Global CST were removed from the SDN list. OFAC claimed sufficient measures were put in place.
  • The lifting of sanctions on Ziv and his three companies sends the wrong message to arms dealers and the international community, questioning the US government's commitment to promoting peace and stability.
  • 22 FebKiir and Machar struck a unity deal and formed a coalition government, ending the South Sudanese civil war (2013-2022).


Investigation Outcomes

  • In 2017, Eitay Mack, an Israeli lawyer, along with 54 other Israeli activists, submitted a petition to the Israeli High Court, urging an investigation into the country's arms exports to South Sudan. The Israeli courts imposed a gag orders on the case, which prevented information or comment from being made public or passed onto any unauthorized third party.. Numerous freedom of information requests directed to Israel's Defense Ministry have been rejected.
  • Israel acknowledges the economic advantages and diplomatic significance of exporting weapons, which are tested on Palestinians, to African nations. This explains why the Israeli government vehemently safeguards arms exports to Africa, resisting activists' attempts to achieve greater transparency and public scrutiny of Israel's military exports.
  • Reports indicate that Global Group has collaborated with the Ministry of Defence of South Sudan since at least 2016. However, the Group refutes any official alliance with the Ministry of Defence or the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF). The Group asserts that its involvement is restricted to offering training to demobilised SSPDF veterans and utilising some SSPDF land for a Green Horizon farm adjacent to the SSPDF Bilpham barracks in Jubafor ‘sole and exclusive agricultural usage’.



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