By Pel K. Chol
Sydney, Australia, June 17, 2012 (SSNA) — Many South Sudanese would wonder if President Kiir was quite stern in his letter which addressed systemic corruption dipping his government or was he just making another deal by mollifying the international community seemingly talking tough while on the grassroots level, no efforts are being made to ensure such malpractices do not continue.
The South Sudanese have every right to possess these mixed feelings on president’s stand based on the fact that he was willing to give amnesty to 75 of his officials who pocketed public funds of 4 billion dollar. That is a worry as it would never deter other load of potential criminals steered by greed instead it would encourage them to follow suit hoping to get the same clemency like former ones did.
But nobody would ever know what goes on in the President’s mind why he undertook this approach. One may agree with the notion that the misuse of public fund is becoming a pest-ridden phenomenon among the politicians of SPLA led government. A verminous that has gone out of president’s control and only wrote the letter because of the pressure from international community during the audit.
Others may perceive his inability to suspend those crook officials or name and shame them if he fails to forward them to law enforcement agencies for possible persecution as a sign that he is losing his mojo and pledged to grant amnesty in return of caucus support.
In spite of this, his willingness to open up this fundamental issue about scourge of corruption engulfing his government is a good start for the country. Many South Sudanese who are prejudiced every day in the country’s ten states will have the opportunity to express their view about the incompetency and dishonesty of many officials in South Sudan and hope that the president addresses their concern because corrupt acts do not only involve the misuse of public fund which embroiled this young nation but one could make a longer list.
It includes embezzlement as many of Presidents’ rogue officials have profoundly been exploiting the public funds for the good part of eight years on a daily basis when purchasing goods for the public. In addition, there are other issues which may not be seen as corrupt acts by Kiir’s officials but in fact are corrupt behaviours which have landed people in jail in other parts of the world with strong principles of democratic governance.
These include the obstruction of justice, blackmailing, deception, bribery, making a false accusation, or conspiracy to commit an offence as well as nepotism to mention the least.
No South Sudanese who have been to Juba would ever say he or she has not come across those improper behaviours of Kiir’s officials since they are entrenched in their political objectives. One of these is nepotism where a great deal of qualified men and women some of whom possess Ph. Degrees cannot find work in Juba and other regional towns.
Is it not a shame that a country with less number of people who can read and write denied opportunities to the very people who are the asset of this nation because they have no friends or relatives in Kiir’s government to bring them on board?
One would again wonder what signal does the president sends to the public, when he allows this to be a recruiting tool, if he is really fair dinkum about justice because the above procedures are corrupt, immoral and evil to the people of South Sudan.
That has left so many scars to so many South Sudanese with degrees who returned to western countries where they obtained their qualifications after being denied opportunities or removed from their positions when some of those scoundrel comrades identify that they do not constitute their wicked acts.
Another example could be seen in the abuse of public office by the president or his party by extending power beyond their limits in appointing state governors irrespective of people’s choice in those states. The same is true to county commissioners whose selection (not election) is now left solely with the state governors as opposed to locals who could primarily be the driver influence.
Is this not corruption?
Given the explanation above, it would be best for the president to refer to the bible and read Jesus statement which asks ‘why then do you look at the straw in your brother’s eyes but do not consider the rafter in your own eye?”
Many South Sudanese comprehend corruption in the country as a taught behaviour among SPLA officials or else, the president could have intervened ages ago. Furthermore, the scale of corruption should not have been as substantial as 4 billion dollars if the accused officials were not following suit.
It is true that the view of SPLA in the past was to bring about change in South Sudanese lives when it fought for their freedom. But as time has passed and resources appear, one would barely vouch that those corrupt leaders still live up to their principles of justice rather than greed.
South Sudanese know that many of them have purchased mansions in neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia and as far as western countries including Australia.
Although this massive endemic corruption was revealed, it appears that the president still has people support to rectify those messes if he does not share the view piloted by his dishonest officials.
However failure to do so would engender a sentiment that the SPLA, in South Sudanese view, has become a commodity and acts more like a functioning alcoholic who drives limousine and survives through the day. But when it crashes at night, it is going to be very ugly.
The country has not even celebrated its first birthday yet but there are millions of dissatisfied South Sudanese either within the SPLA itself or in the civilian population who are not happy with the current system.
This does not intend to incite violence but the President must stop deceitful strategies in his governance because history tells that all those fail states with non-state actors such as Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq and Somalia had once been through this stage depicted by widespread of corruption forcing ordinary citizens to address their grievances through strategies they think would depose pitiful regimes.
So far so good, the anti-corruption body seems to be doing a good job especially when it recovered 60 million dollars in a country where the judicial system is still very weak. However, a combination of effort is needed to address this effectively.
The basic institutions such as the judiciary and the police needs to be strengthened and they must be self-sufficient enough free of ruling party influence otherwise they will be seen as agents of state promoting its interest.
Preventive tools such as external organisation would also need to be created to oversee various departments because prevention is always better than cure. Education needs to be provided through work shops across the country to ensure that people are well aware about what corrupt behaviour is, its danger as well as its impact in a country where more than half of its population depends on less than a dollar a day.
In terms of election, the president on his part must ensure that free and fair election exists, the wish of people when electing state governor must be honoured regardless of the candidate’s political background. The president must also consult with governors of South Sudan states to stop selecting county commissioners because it is just another corruption and abuse of power.
For God sake, leave it up to the people of the county to decide (through election) who they like to lead them. South Sudan could be fortunate enough to draw upon the principles of democratic governance which enshrined western countries rather than falling into the bad old days of autocratic regimes which destroyed so many African, Asian and Middle East countries some of which are today responsible for the poverty, hunger and diseases which affect their people.
The Author is a concerned citizen studying post graduate courses in the Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism in Sydney Australia. He can be reached at [email protected]