17 June 2012
Position of The Opposition on the President’s Letter to “Corrupt” Government Officials
1. Since it became public in early June, the letter of the President of the Republic, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, dated the 3rd of May 2012 in which he wrote to 75 current and former government officials that he accused of stealing 4 billion US dollars, has been the subject of intense debate. As the official Opposition party in the country, the SPLM-DC is duty bound to make its position on the matter clear.
2.That the government that ruled South Sudan since 2005 is corrupt to the marrow is not news. We have said it loud and clear three years ago and there were muted voices here and there saying so, only to be met with strong denials by those in power. The only new thing now is that the President is trying albeit in a weak-kneed manner to pass the buck to others in his government. The whole exercise is meant to impress not South Sudanese but the nagging international community whose money that they gave generously in the mistaken hope of helping South Sudan ended up in the fat bank accounts of unscrupulous leaders of the Government in South Sudan.
3.From the outset let us not be duped about the amount of the missing money. Since 2005 to date, South Sudan has received in excess of 20 billion US dollars as revenue from oil alone. This figure excludes the funds it got in terms of grants and loans in addition to its share of the national budget before secession. Since there is very little to show for in terms of services rendered to our people, where did most of that money go to?
Therefore, the figure quoted in the President’s letter is paltry, well below the actual amount embezzled.
4.The tone and tenor of the President’s language in the letter is unmistakeable. Says he: “an estimated $4 billion are unaccounted for, or simply put, stolen by current and former South Sudan officials or corrupt individuals with close ties to government officials”. In another paragraph he categorically puts it that: “some [former and current government officials] have purchased properties; often paid in cash” and proceeded to state that he had written 75 letters to these government officials requesting them to “return these stolen funds (full or partial)”. Despite his futile attempt to beat a hasty retreat, nothing short of denying the authenticity of the letter will make people take his latest statements seriously. Since he has not done so, it is obvious from the above quotations that anybody that has received the President’s letter is not only a suspect but is heavily accused of stealing public funds with all what that entails in the legal realm.
5. With that lack of doubt in the President’s mind of the crime committed, it is mind-boggling why the President rather than proceed with his water-tight case against the “looters” of public funds ends up begging them to anonymously return even part of the money stolen! If the objective was to get back the $4 billion, this partial depositing, if it were to happen, to win the President’s amnesty, would not do the trick because anything above a zero dollar is “part” of the money and qualifies the depositor to full amnesty.
6.In principle, the idea of writing letters to suspected embezzlers of public funds is none of the President’s business, less so to write off stolen government funds which belong to the people of South Sudan. The President has no authority to conceal the identity of thieves and write off the stolen money. Such an action in itself runs counter to a basic principle of criminal law, the deterrent effect. No criminal would want to be discovered in the act of committing a crime. Hence, making the names of those convicted of embezzling the money of the poor South Sudanese public, the so-called shaming, is the strongest deterrent for any would-be embezzler.
7.The volte-face of the President was, we understand, a result of a passionate wheeling and dealing in the circles of the ruling party as a result of the last resolution of Parliament to suspend all recipients of the President’s letter. We know that most of the 55 Ministers and Deputy Ministers in the current government of the Republic of South Sudan and other stalwarts of the SPLM are in receipt of the letter. Suspending them would mean that the government and the party would be paralyzed and tainted, the very opposite of what the President had wanted to achieve. What goes round comes round!
8.In light of the above our position on the matter is as follows:
(a)- Corruption is a cancerous disease that has robbed our people of funds that would have been used to provide them with the basic services of life-saving medicines, education and decent living; compromised our image inside South Sudan and abroad and had introduced a sub-culture alien to our values. It must therefore be fought with all resolve and vigour to eradicate it.
(b)- We unreservedly support the resolution of the National Legislature on Tuesday the 13th instant that all suspected of corruption, starting with those who were served with the President’s letter, be suspended from duty and be investigated by the competent legal authorities and those found to have a case to answer for be prosecuted. One is amazed to hear a Cabinet Minister say that this resolution is not binding on the Executive branch of government!
(c)- The government of the Republic of South Sudan must show by deeds, not words, that it is committed to its own slogan of “zero-tolerance to corruption”. The people of South Sudan will only believe them if some heads start rolling, something that has not happened in the entire life of the SPLM-led government. Our people learn by example not through rhetoric.
(d)- The current debate about the corrupt elements in our midst was started by none other than the President himself. Hence, he should not be seen to waver in his resolve to take firm action against those suspected of being involved in corruption, otherwise, accusing fingers will be pointed at him.
(e)- We appeal to our people in South Sudan to keep this debate alive. This is the only way to retrieve our stolen money and stamp out corruption once and for all. Our slogans should be: “Corruption Kills” and “No Amnesty to Thieves”.
Dr Lam Akol,
Chairman of SPLM-DC.