AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH SUDAN, Lieutenant General Salva Kiir Mayardit,President of the Republic of South Sudan, Juba, South Sudan
20 June 2012
Dear Mr. President:
Subject: Letter from the President to Corrupt Officials in South Sudan
(Gurtong 20th June) -It is about seven and a half years since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in January 2005. The CPA should have introduced a new era for the development of a democratic framework for governance, the equitable distribution of all revenue and prepared the people of South Sudan for the referendum. The universally recognized outcome of the referendum culminated in an independent South Sudan. Mr. President, these historic achievements have been severely compromised by the scourge of rampant corruption in South Sudan.
Politicians and civil servants at all levels, including ministers, have perpetrated this unprecedented level of corruption - in the midst of a disease-laden, hungry and impoverished population. The total decimation of all public services comes as no surprise. In contrast, there has been minimal government investment in education, health, agricultural productivity or communications, leaving the vast majority of the population hostage to disease, hunger, ignorance, poverty and violence and the widely recognized food-aid dependency.
It is an open secret that some government officials use stolen public funds to sustain their families or finance the education of their children at exclusive private schools overseas and in the neighbouring countries. Others use the stolen funds to acquire luxury private property (apartments, houses, mansions or villas) in foreign countries. Stolen public funds have also benefited private business interests in South Sudan and abroad – giving the false impression of a nation awash in gold.
Mr. President, we subscribe to allegations that corruption is widespread within the Government of the Republic of South Sudan. We contrast this reality with your declaration of ‘zero tolerance’ to corruption. An Anti-Corruption Commission has been established and senior members of government advised to declare their wealth. In spite of all these, corruption continues unabated, to the anguish of the ordinary people of South Sudan.
Mr President, whilst your declared stand against corruption is to be applauded, the actions of your government in practicing “zero tolerance” leave much to be desired. Indicative of this is your letter simply “requesting” persons totaling 75 to “anonymously” return stolen money to a questionable foreign account. We believe that the letter is inappropriate for the following reasons:
•The letter neither names the officials requested to return the funds, nor does it clearly state the account name, number, branch and bank to which these funds are to be deposited. The anonymity of 75 casts a shadow of suspicion on all those in government, including the innocent who have reason to feel demoralized even if upright.
•Concealing the identities of the thieves of public funds will lead to more speculation about your personal role in the misappropriation of public funds. Suspects should be named, given the opportunity to come clean or face the legal consequences of their actions.
•Given the above, questions arise as to the legal grounds for the President of the Republic of South Sudan to conceal the identity of alleged thieves, pardon them upon refunding stolen funds, and thus, appear to abet their impunity.
•If the identity of culprits is to be protected, instead of “naming and shaming” them, at the least, there would be no reason as to why honest and law abiding government officials should not be tempted to indulge in fraud – after all, all they would be required to do, if caught, is secretly return what they are able to!
•Corruption has compromised the integrity and credibility of your leadership and government among citizens and the international community. In a recently televised debate on Al Jazeera TV, which featured your Minister of Information, a globally respected professor of economics repeatedly stated that ‘the Government of South Sudan is corrupt through and through’. The professor’s assessment reflects the views of the international community.
•The method you have adopted to retrieve the stolen money will yield a very small fraction of that money, if any at all. As earlier indicated, much of the stolen money has been used to acquire luxury property in foreign countries, as well as to finance the residence and studentship of family members abroad. Allowing them to return stolen funds on a voluntary basis is tantamount to legalizing their actions and their loot.
Mr. President, in view of the negative implications on your integrity, the credibility of your government and the loss of pride for our nation, you are hereby strongly urged to re-consider your recent actions and adopt the following recommendations:
•The names of all the officials known to have misappropriated public funds, and amounts each is suspected to have stolen since 2005, should be published as a prelude to legal proceedings
•All identified suspects should have their passports withdrawn and banned from foreign travel. Suspects fleeing to other countries should be repatriated to South Sudan as a matter of urgency
•All such suspects should be arrested and may be detained for their own protection – with government standing ready to prevent ethnic-based liberation of suspects from government detention
•All such suspects should be prosecuted in a court of law, and if found guilty - ordered to refund stolen funds and have their illicitly-gained property confiscated
•All suspects found guilty should further be subjected to civil proceedings to determine the damage and pain they have caused to citizens and legally establish appropriate penalties / compensation.
•Any officials associated with embezzlement should face the full force of the law: arrested, charged in court, and tried; and if found guilty: appropriately penalised, dismissed, and banned from holding public office for life
•The declaration of wealth by senior officials should be comprehensive (to include sources of income) and made public knowledge
•Government financial institutions and procedures should be strengthened to ensure accountability and transparency by plugging any loopholes that might facilitate the continuity of the culture of theft of public funds by government officials in the future
Implementing the preceding recommendations would serve the following objectives:
•Demonstrate your firm commitment to the eradication of corruption in South Sudan
•Show that you are not, knowingly, perverting the course of justice to protect your colleagues, friends, partners in government or relatives
•Reiterate your professed dedication to justice, freedom and equality for all the people of South Sudan
•Show the people of South Sudan that you are able, determined and willing to protect them from exploitation by a minority clique of unpatriotic thieves
Mr. President, we would like to remind you that the integrity of your leadership, the credibility of your government and the pride of our nation are all at stake. History will harshly judge you should you allow the scourge of rampant corruption to continue unchecked. If you fail to act now your legacy as “the man who successfully steered the ship through storms and tempests to its final destination” will be tarnished and forgotten forever. You should strive to be remembered as Lieutenant General Salva Kiir Mayardit, the man who liberated South Sudan from the claws of corruption - and not the politician or president who protected those who stole public funds.
We hope the above will persuade you to salvage the integrity of your leadership, the credibility of your government and the welfare and pride of the people of South Sudan.
Signed (Concerned citizens of South Sudan)
1) Benaiah Nyaing Duku Baltimore, Maryland - USA
2) Dr. Charles Bakheit
3) Hakeem Legge, Leeds, England (UK)
4) Hearty Ritti Jada
5) Henry Y. Lejukole, Des Moines, IA
6) J. Omunu
7) Justin Donato Yanga, Lincoln, Nebraska – USA
8) Justin Laku, Ottawa, Canada
9) Kwaje M. Lasu
10) Martin Abucha
11) Mary Lodira, Birmingham, England, UK
12) Oliver J. Lomeri
13) Sam L. Laki
14) Samuel W. Bringa
15) Sebit Joseph Livio
16) Silvestro Akara Bakheit
17) White J. Walla, Washington DC, USA