The Failure to Recover Embezzled Funds Squarely Rests With the President

By: Justin Ambago Ramba

June 3, 2012 (SSNA) — The past month of May 2012 has been full of events for the nascent Republic of South Sudan (RSS) – the country witnessed new dispensations on both the political and economic fronts. Politically much of the attention has now been shifted externally to Addis Ababa where negotiations with the Republic of Sudan (North) have started under the auspices of the African Union (AU).

The 90 days AU – and UN Security Council [UNSC] blessed and endorsed Roadmap is hoped to address the issues of security, borders, citizenship, Oil and citizenship all too crucial to the stability of the two neighbouring countries following the brief period of military escalations between them.

However internally the RSS is facing many economic problems directly as a consequence of the abrupt shut-down of the Oil industry which led to the loss of 98% of the country’s total income. So technical speaking RSS is now operating its economy using only the left 2% of its resources. Surprising though it also got itself dragged in a brief military skirmishes with its northern neighbour, the Sudan.   

It is important to understand that although the UN Security Council (UNSC) has put a time frame of three months for the two Sudans to iron out their differences, the truth of the matter is that one can hardly expect the Sudanese especially those in Khartoum to honour this time frame. We might have already started “marathon of negotiations” and given the history of previous ones which took place in Kenya between the years 2002-2005, the possibility of running another similar marathon is very real.

Taking the aforementioned points into consideration, it becomes abundantly clear that despite a declared cease fire between the two fighting sides and even if the UN troops on the ground succeed to keep the two sides apart, still the war which has taken an economic turn will continue until a total solution that satisfies both sides is hammered out and implemented to the letter and the spirit. This is what south Sudan should envisage and take a robust step to address before it is too late.

A new pipeline will obviously take money and time to construct. The option of selling sub-soil crude Oil which is being floated by some politicians is nothing but soothing rhetoric. It’s just like marrying off one’s unborn baby girl. Too ridiculously isn’t it?  And   tricky too!  It’s more a sign of desperation than any.

“Parents who marry off their unborn daughters and those who take the unborn brides as their married wives are all insane one way or the other”.

So, let us face the truth for if we don’t the truth will face us anyway.  Our problem now is to get money that can help us diversify our economy – because engaging in any economic activity obviously needs a capital to start with. This is too basic indeed isn’t it?  But where do we get this money from and this is the crucial question which when answered it will open the way for us.

A lot of politicians are talking about taking loans or asking for more Aid money…..etc. Nonetheless before we talk of getting loans just to pay salaries to people who are not even producing anything, why don’t we go back to our books and see what is there for us.

“When a shopkeeper goes broke, he will check his books to see if he owes money to someone that he can reclaim to boast his business.”

At this juncture one would like to believe that the government of RSS has learnt a lesson from this simple time tested proverb when it brought up the issues of the embezzled public funds.  However there are short comings in the way the whole process has been handled by the President right from day one thus suggesting that there are ulterior motives NOT to expose the identities of culprits. This clearly reflected in the toothless Anti-corruption Commission and how much it has evolved since 2006, it’s intentionally kept toothless.

Judging by the way President Kiir approaches the issue of recovering the embezzled funds; it is obvious that the tool he is using is not helpful. At times he gives a wrong impression as if the stolen money belongs to him personally with the public continuously being kept in the dark.  The little occasional and sporadic information here and there about the government’s efforts to recover these missing funds are only volunteered when there is an external criticism and the immediate aim would be to counteract those international concerns.

Within this month of June, 2012 two documents from the office of the President of Republic of South Sudan have been released to the public.  The first is dated May3, 2012 (a letter from the president to the seventy five thieves, and signed by the President himself) the other document is dated June 1, 2012 (Anti-corruption Measures). Both documents have reached the public and the media and we hope that they are both authentic and not “mere concoctions”.

It is the timing of the release of these documents, in June 1, 2012 which coincides with the aftermath of the US Report. A Report that an unequivocally portrays the government of RSS as complacent in the issues of corruption, embezzlement and lawlessness that has plagued the new country, that raises the most eye borrows? Why the coincidence or is it a political PR to appease the US administration after the RSS Minister of Information snapped the US Report describing it as “mere American Concoction” intended to tarnish the image of the country?

President Kiir should understand that the missing funds do not belong to him personally even though he is the president of the country.

His pledges with the thieves and the embezzlers urging them in a very linen way that almost translates to begging them  to return the money they have stolen (in full or partial) sounds too personal suggesting  a fact that he personal knows and socializes with these thieves. No doubt that these are old comrades and ‘high caliber’ SPLM inner circles. I mean, how do you get a free hand to such huge sums of money if you are not an insider? Thank God this has been confirmed by this statement in the President’s letter to the “seventy five thieves” – some are still actively serving in his government, while some he has laid off:

“We fought for freedom, justice, and equality. Many of our friends died to achieve these objectives. Yet, once we got power, we forgot what we fought for and began to enrich ourselves at the expense of our people”. President Kiir concluded in his letter.

The fact that the President has personally taken up the matter raises eye borrows for either he is really concerned to recover this huge sums ($4billion or more) to speed up things because his administration is now feeling the economic pinch on one hand or it could be that the toothless Anti-corruption Commission are finding it too hard to confront some of this well-fortified senior SPLM cadres.

The way things are been done seemingly without the involvement of the legal state apparatus and the law enforcement agents (the legal courts and the Police) points to a protective role being played by the President directly with the  ultimate intention of protecting the identities of individuals so dear to him.  For how can the President of a country deal directly with thieves without the involvement of the Police or the Judiciary?

How on earth can a President  begin to correspond directly  in letters with thieves whose criminal actions has cost us the death of thousands of malnourish children, mothers in Labour or our gallant SPLA men and women in the battle fields?  Begging these “seventy five thieves” to return (all or partial) funds they stolen from the public is no option.

And what about this secret account opened in Kenya that is only known to President Kiir and his “seventy five friends” (the thieves) plus only one other person.

Sincerely speaking President Kiir has demonstrated a very strange ways of handling public affairs and from the language he used in his letter to the “seventy five thieves” who stole an estimated amount of $4billion, one can sense that the thieves are already known to the President or else how does he address them and even how does he intend to deliver his letters to them?

One thing is for certain and that is the President has resorted to blackmailing his former comrades if we consider that the letters were   genuinely aimed to scare these thugs to return the embezzles funds through the back door which the President has left open in an account in Kenya to facilitate the easiness and secrecy of the deposition of money by the “seventy five comrades” turn big fishes.

In his letter President Kiir argues his “seventy five friends(thieves)” and explains to them that he is all too willing to forgive them if they can only return some of the money even partially ——–which means even a symbolic amount. But why……… it his personal money that he can be too soft on the thieves like this?!

Why is President Kiir using the blackmailing tactics of offering the thieves protection if they cooperate secretly and only with him and one other person away from the legal establishments of the state and the law enforcement apparatus? Why is the president afraid to expose the seventy five thieves? Are they too strong for him to confront and that’s why he is resorting to begging them?

The members of the South Sudan public should rightly maintain that President Kiir has no right to reach extra-judiciary settlements with these thieves although they may be known to him personally, be they – friends – in-laws – relatives – party loyalists or kinsmen.

The total sum of $4billion as stated in the President’s letter to the “seventy five comrades turn thieves” is in fact a huge sum of money which cannot just be treated softly the way the President is doing. You don’t give options to a group of mafia who made it away with such an astronomical figure ($4,000,000,000 in standard form). Remember! And please remember that the total money approved by the International community to reconstruct South Sudan (in fact to build it from scratch was only $4billion).  See how much they have given us so far  from their $4b and how much we have embezzled from our own money. Did we need the donor money in the first place if we only had a good government?!

However although  the government of RSS  at  its top echelon is aware of the identities of the “seventy five senior thieves”,  yet it chooses to use a rudimentary method practiced by typical African chiefs who preside over village courts often held under  big tamarind trees  on market days all across the African continent to deal with this national security issue. Obviously the “African chief mentality” is no match for these highly sophisticated and internationally connected thieves. The way out would suggest that something be done that could bring about pressure to bear upon the President forcing him to switch to a more robust way of handling this issue. A way that can yield results fast and in the shortest possible time.

Hence as an initial step it is highly recommended that ALL donors should stop ALL forms of financial assistances, aids and loans to the government of South Sudan to put pressure on President Kiir so that he realizes within the shortest possible time that he needs to adopt a more conventional means for reclaiming these missing sums of money since the culprits are already known to him.  The $4billion is too big a money my dear reader! If he has no any other option available, for sure he will fight teeth and claws to reclaim this money – for he will either sink or swim!

Author: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba. Secretary General – United South Sudan Party [USSP]. He can be reached at: [email protected] or [email protected]

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