It is unfortunate the world’s newest independent country, South Sudan, has learned the ropes of Africa’s greatest enemy to development – corruption – too soon.
According to President Silva Kiir, 75 Government officials and individuals close to it have stolen Sh343 billion ($4 billion) of public money by skimming off oil revenue and through a 2009 scandal in which billions of dollars worth of grain were ordered but not delivered.
South Sudan is barely a year old and corruption of this magnitude shouldn’t be heard here.
Kiir wrote to the 75 giving them an amnesty to return the loot. His assertion that, “People in South Sudan are suffering and yet some Government officials simply care about themselves” are just painful. In his letter, Kiir seems to understand well that the funds have been deposited in foreign accounts or bought properties.
Of course no one expects the country to be immune to corruption, but this has come too soon. It is simply unfortunate.
With oil production shut down due to a row with Sudan – and no oil revenue sharing deal yet on the table for when production eventually restarts – South Sudan is the midst of an economic crisis that corruption threatens to exacerbate. Moreover, corruption and a general lack of transparency have made the prospect of getting international loans a tricky business.
Corruption appears to be so deep in South Sudan that even top officials in the anti-corruption commission have been accused of it. Earlier this year, allegations of nepotism and abuse of power were raised against former commission head Pauline Riak, and, according to the Sudan Tribune, her successor, Supreme Court judge John Gatwech Lul, was accused of conspiring against her.
Both have denied the charges, and no South Sudanese official has been prosecuted since the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement came to power there in 2005.
I agree with Kiir when he says, “The credibility of our Government is on the line” because after so many years of fighting for freedom, justice and equality – where many Sudanese died to achieve these objectives – those who made it to power have forgotten what they fought for and began to enrich themselves at the expense of the nation.
South Sudan split from the north last July, taking three-quarters of Sudan’s oil fields with it. Before production shut down, oil accounted for 98 per cent of its revenue.
Corruption will surely ruin the prospects of the 11-month-old nation which remains one of world’s poorest and least developed.