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South Sudan’s president criticised for protecting corrupt officials

Akim Mugisa
The South Sudan Civil Society Alliance is pressing for a public trial of 75 allegedly corrupt officials on charges of stealing US$4 billion of public funds.
14.06.2012  |  Juba
Members of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance demonstrate at the National Assembly in Juba, June 11.
Members of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance demonstrate at the National Assembly in Juba, June 11.

South Sudan Civil Society Alliance Secretary General Boutros Biel on Monday pushed for transparency after President Salva Kiir Mayardit’s decision to protect the identities of government officials implicated in corruption.

South Sudan Civil Society Alliance Secretary General Boutros Biel says corrupt officials should be sent to the law courts.
© June 11, 2012 The Niles | Akim Mugisa
President Salva Kiir recently wrote to 75 former and current government officials to instruct them to return money they fraudulently took from South Sudan and redirected into foreign accounts or into the purchase of property. In total some US$4 billion of public funds has been taken over a period of seven years.

Biel said the officials should not be shielded by the government, arguing that as long as they remain anonymous they cannot be prosecuted. He said the president can forgive them after they have served their sentences. It is not the president’s money, it belongs to the public,” said Biel.

According to Kiir’s letter dated May 3, 2012, a bank account was opened in Kenya in February so that officials could return misappropriated government funds. I am writing to encourage you to return these stolen funds (full or partial) to this account. If funds are returned, the government of the Republic of South Sudan will grant you amnesty and will keep your name confidential‚” the letter reads.

Central Equatoria MP in Juba, Magdalene Peter Emilio, says the priority is to recover lost funds.
© June 11, 2012 The Niles | Akim Mugisa
Speaking at the opening of the second session of the National Legislative Assembly on Monday, June 11, the Speaker James Wani Igga urged the nation to fight corruption.

Igga said it was important to take a strong stand against corruption at this formative stage in South Sudan’s history. Such a move, he said, would leave a legacy of Kiir’s leadership in the young nation”.  

Kiir told legislators and representatives of the diplomatic corps that he had written to the officials as part of the measures necessary to stamp out what he referred to as the cancer of corruption”. Outside parliament President Kiir was greeted by peaceful demonstrators who carried placards demanding recovery of public funds and prosecution of those responsible.

Riak Maker, a Public Administration student at the University of Juba, holds an anti-corruption placard at the National Assembly in Juba, June 11.
© The Niles | Akim Mugisa
Riak Maker, a 29 year old student of Public Administration at Juba University said he was outraged by the corrupt officials and their accomplices.

Maker said that South Sudanese were dying without proper healthcare, education and security because of money stolen from the treasury. He added that the names of those implicated should be made public to reveal who was hindering development of the country. Criminals should be dealt with according to the law. This money belongs to the people of South Sudan‚” said Maker.

Others, however, took a more pragmatic stance, insisting that the priority is that the money is returned. Central Equatoria Member of Parliament Magdalene Peter Emilio says she thinks people will accept it if the officials pay back the cash they took.