As the 1st anniversary of the birth of the Republic of South Sudan is fast approaching, I’m looking back with very little satisfaction.
It’s been bitter sweet for me. Sweet because we’ve finally had the freedom that we fought so hard for but bitter as we’re dealing with North Sudan as well as corruption within the Southern Sudanese government.
The situation with North Sudan hasn’t been at all positive since the secession; from fighting with North Sudan about Abyei, to how oil should be shared between the countries, the conflicts are getting worse and worse with no clear end in sight.
This continuous instability and corruption within the Southern Sudanese government are hampering our ability to develop the country.
From experience, I’ve been aware of this corruption ever since I can remember. I’ve heard stories of Southern Sudanese kids living large in Australia while one of their parents works in the government. I’ve also seen Southern Sudanese men disappear from England by the numbers, heading to South Sudan in the hope of finding a governmental job. Some families here are said to be (controversially), living quite well.
It’s really no secret that those who work in the government seem to get a pretty good pay check and how they get that, isn’t a secret either. It’s public knowledge that some people in the government hire their own relatives to work for or with them and/or take money from the public coffers. Hey, everyone does it!
Very recently in the headlines though, South Sudan president, Salva Kiir accused a number of senior South Sudan officials of stealing about $4bn of public money. I was taken aback by the amount taken; US$4bn? How is that even possible? This must have been a conspiracy.
According to an Al Jazeera documentary based on Southern Sudanese corruption;
- Nearly $1bn of oil revenue was unaccounted for in 2005-2006
- There was no financial reporting in 2007 - 2011
- Millions of dollars are feared to have been smuggled out of South Sudan to foreign countries
Oil is about 90% of South Sudan’s income, however disputes with the North have lead to oil pipes being shut down. For this reason, South Sudan hasn’t been able to get any sort of income into the country and has had to rely on loans and foreign aid.
Salva Kiir wrote out a letter to 75 ministers about the missing $4bn and asked for the money to be returned to a Kenyan bank account he set up. ‘Huh?’, you exclaim. Is he serious about the money being returned to a Kenyan bank account (a country which is also known for its economical and political corruption)?
There’s more; he offers those who return the money confidentiality and amnesty.
What the bleep is this?
Sounds like a desperate attempt to get the money back. If anything I feel that this is a really weak response to a large problem; $4bn missing which was intended for projects to improve the quality of life of Southerners who are still enduring poverty.
If anything, hardline action should have been taken. People should have been named and shamed for taking that money. They should have given back as much of the money they still have, publicly apologised and resigned.
A lot of Southern Sudanese are still lacking basic health care and sanitation facilities, they deserve an apology for this disgraceful behaviour.
Did anything good actually come from President Salva Kiir’s letter? Well, yes, $60m has been recovered since the letters were sent out. I’m surprised that that much has been recovered because I personally laughed at Salva Kiir’s weak approach.
$60m is a drop in the ocean compared to the missing $4bn. Frankly speaking, there should be an outrage and parliament should have been shook up in order for most of the money to be recovered.
There needs to be transparency within the government and the public coffers need to be given better protection. Zero tolerance needs to be in place for this sort of behaviour. Corruption needs to be viewed as taboo.
"I did not say the money was stolen neither I did say $4Bn has been stolen. I said the money has been lost somewhere and someone has to account for it. I have written to 75 former and present gov’t officials. This does not mean that these 75 officials are suspects but they have the responsibility. I will still write to some officials whom I had written to them and now claimed to have not received any letter from my office. I will again write to some more officials whom I did not write to them earlier." (President Kiir, May 13th, 2012)
Mr President, sir, you do not lose $4bn. You may lose a $20 note… that may have fallen out of your pocket while you were cycling through the hot streets of Juba (if that’s even possible with the terrible roads there)… you may even be able to find that $20 note again. But you do not lose $4bn.
Not taking a tougher stance means that this man is likely hiding something too. He would be outed himself if he did take a tougher stance, i.e. reveal the names of the people who he suspects took the money.
And this is a leader of a so called ‘democracy’?
The credibility of the Southern Sudanese government has been challenged and quite frankly, it’s being lost at a rapid pace. Who is able to respect a leader who is afraid of his own ministers? These people are ‘running’ our country? The country we fought so long and hard for?
South Sudan is a young nation, the newest in the world and understandably, that comes with its challenges. From border disputes regarding Abyei to tribalism, we’ve been given a large set of challenges. The war torn country requires some form of stability and the building of basic infrastructure. But if the money required for this stability and infrastructure is stolen, what hope do we have?
People always tell me, ‘give it time’. How much time should I give this country before it is stabilised? Things need to change and fast.
According to the BBC (and I’m not sure because there isn’t a lot of reporting on this), the South Sudanese parliament has voted to suspend the 75 ministers accused of corruption.
If they are suspended, that restores a little bit of faith that I have for my country. Why they haven’t been suspended from the start, should be deemed as a deep regret and needs to be avoided in the future.
Why Salva Kiir knows who has taken the money, should be questioned as well.