You are hereAN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH SUDAN
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH SUDAN
Lieutenant General (Retired) Salva Kiir Mayardit
President of the Republic of South Sudan
Dear Mr President:
Subject: Letter from the President of South Sudan to Corrupt South Sudanese Government Officials
It is about seven and a half years since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in January 2005. The CPA was expected to be the end of one of the longest ever military conflicts in Africa and the beginning of a new era for developing a viable democratic framework for governance, the equitable distribution of revenue from the sale of oil and prepare the people of South Sudan for a referendum for self-determination. The referendum was peacefully held in January 2011 and South Sudan became an independent nation in July 2011. Mr. President, the historic achievements of the CPA, peaceful referendum for self-determination and smooth transition to political independence were no mean feat. However, the achievements of the past seven years have been seriously eclipsed by the scourge of rampant corruption in South Sudan.
Since the CPA South Sudan has experienced hitherto unprecedented levels of corruption, perpetrated by some unscrupulous government ministers, party leaders, members of parliament and senior civil servants, who have shamefully abused their positions and public trust and stolen large amounts of public funds in foreign currency and, thus, enriching themselves and producing overnight millionaires in the midst of a disease-laden, hungry and impoverished population. The rampant misappropriation of public funds has unfortunately led to the total decimation of all public services. On the other hand, there has been minimal government investment in education, health, agricultural productivity or communications. A vast majority of the population remains hostage to the malaise of disease, hunger, ignorance, poverty and violence. The population has been largely dependence on food rations from international agencies.
Some government officials have reportedly used stolen public funds to pay for the education of their children at exclusive private schools and universities in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom (UK), the United States of America (USA) and the neighbouring countries. Others have used stolen public funds to acquire luxury private property (apartments, houses, mansions or villas) in foreign countries as far afield as Australia, Canada, the Sudan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA). Stolen public funds have also been used to pursue private business interests in South Sudan and abroad. Investment in business and property abroad has created a false image of South Sudan, especially in the neighbouring countries, where it is perceived as the land where streets are paved in gold and every Tom, Harry or Dick is a multi-millionaire.
Mr President, we know that corruption is perpetrated by a minority of officials in the Government of the Republic of South Sudan. We are also aware of your policy of ‘zero tolerance’ to corruption. You have set up the Anti-Corruption Commission and ordered senior members of your government to declare their wealth. In spite of all your noble efforts, the scourge of corruption continues unabated. We would also like to reassure you that the ordinary people of South Sudan are united behind your determination to eradicate corruption – this is a very rare feat in Africa and, indeed, elsewhere.
Mr President, whilst we applaud your brave, wise and patriotic decision to lead the fight against corruption, it is widely felt that your action has fallen far short of the expectations of the people of South Sudan. Of particular concern are the potential implications of the letter you have written to the 75 current and former government officials, who have ruthlessly stolen public funds, and simply requested to return the money anonymously to a bank account in Kenya.
We would like to draw your attention to the following implications in connection to the inappropriateness of the letter:
· The content of the letter is open to criticism and misinterpretation because it neither includes the names of the recipients nor is it targeted at the actual officials who stole the funds. On the other hand, your letter casts a dark shadow of suspicion on all the innocent officials in the Government of South Sudan and, thus, putting their integrity into disrepute. It is tantamount to stating that any South Sudanese government official is as corrupt as the other. Literarily, this impression kills the morale of the upright official, and makes him/her wonder whether it is worth being a dedicated, honest and upright servant of the people.
· The letter appears to protect the identities of the government officials who have stolen public funds and gives the impression that you are deliberately protecting their identity. Concealing the identities of the thieves of public funds will lead to more speculation about your personal role in the misappropriation of the public funds. There is no need to protect the thieves, who have indiscriminately stolen public funds, enriched themselves and denied the people of South Sudan their basic human rights to education, health and decent living standards.
· The public funds misappropriated by the corrupt government officials belong to all the people of South Sudan and the President of the Republic of South Sudan does not have the authority, power or jurisdiction to conceal the identity of the thieves, pardon them or engage in the perversion of the course of justice. Perversion of the course of justice is a very serious criminal offence.
· Your decision to conceal the identity of the culprits will motivate honest and law abiding government officials to indulge in similar criminal offences i.e. stealing public funds on the assumption that your government does not view the despicable act of embezzlement as a crime. It is in your personal interest and the credibility of your government that there is transparency in the fight against corruption. Criminals should face the full force of the law and appropriately punished to serve as a deterrent to others. Fighting corruption with kid-gloves will never, ever yield tangible results.
· The current levels of corruption have compromised the integrity of your leadership and the credibility of your government in South Sudan and the international community. Some foreign countries are questioning the wisdom of supporting our struggle for political independence in view of the fact that public funds, in billions of United States Dollars (USDs), has been indiscriminately stolen and systematically transferred to the private bank accounts of senior government officials abroad. In a recently televised debate on Al Jazeera TV, which featured the South Sudan 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. It is unlikely that any of the financial institutions will engage with a country where corruption is the cultural practice at the highest levels of government.
· The method you have adopted to retrieve the stolen money will yield a very small fraction of that money. Some of the stolen money has been used to acquire luxury property in neighbouring countries and aboard. The partial recovery of stolen money will appear like rewarding the thieves for the ignominious practice of stealing public funds. As we all know, rewarding thieves would certainly breed more thieves.
Mr President, in view of the implications for your personal integrity, the credibility of your government and the pride of our nation, you are strongly urged to seriously re-consider your recent actions and adopt the following recommendations:
· The names of all the officials, known to have misappropriated public funds since 2005, should be published immediately
· All officials known to have misappropriated public funds should have their passports withdrawn and banned from foreign travel. Thieves fleeing to other countries should be repatriated to South Sudan as a matter of urgency
· All officials known to have misappropriated public funds should be arrested, detained without bail, prosecuted and banned from holding public office for life. The thieves of public funds must be arrested and detained to protect them from the anger and frustration of the general population.
· All officials known to have misappropriated public funds should be prosecuted in an independent or impartial court of law, stolen funds retrieved and property confiscated. They should also be prosecuted for ‘crimes against humanity’ because their actions have caused death, hunger and destitution to millions of children, men and women
· The declaration of wealth by senior officials should be made public knowledge, as it happens in other countries
· 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 committed 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 overt 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. You will be judged very harshly by history if the scourge of rampant corruption is allowed 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 be remembered as the President who liberated South Sudan from the claws of corruption and not the President who protected the men and women who stole public finds, transferred it abroad and condemned the people of South Sudan to live with endemic disease, hunger, ignorance and poverty.
We hope you will change your mind and act decisively to salvage the integrity of your leadership, the credibility of your government and the pride of the people of South Sudan.
Concerned Citizens of South Sudan