By Jacob K. Lupai
June 20, 2012 (SSNA) — The Republic of South Sudan is determined to be a corruption free country. This has been made absolutely clear by the president. Also, the speaker of the national assembly has vowed there will be no compromise on corruption. This commitment is enshrined in the vision, programme and the constitution of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) as on March 1998. In its fifteen-point programme the SPLM sees corruption as threatening everything and everybody, and it is a major obstacle to economic development. The SPLM pledges to combat vigorously corruption at all levels so that it is completely eradicated. What the president is therefore doing is to realize the vision of the SPLM for a corruption free South Sudan. However, with a high level of corruption endemic to South Sudan some drastic measures must be adopted. Above all there must be a strong political will if success in combating corruption is to be recorded. With the recent indication of 75 senior past and present officials associated with the disappearance of 4 billion US$ from government coffers, something drastic needs to happen for people to rest assured. Misappropriation of public funds is not, though, the only act of corruption. Corrupt practices are many and varied.
Corrupt practices range from misappropriation of public funds and deliberate misuse of public property to demanded enormous tips for favours or for routine services. Tribalism is also a corrupt practice which may happen in all aspects of life. In employment tribalism is rampant. For example, somebody in a position of power will try to appoint their tribesmen in sensitive positions for fear of losing control. Tribalism compromises efficiency because those appointed may be below standard. Its other disadvantage is that tribalism sows the seed of dislike of others because more often it encourages insensitivity to the others. This was what seemed to have happened during the government of the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972. Tribalism was so ingrained that it was suffocating as it bred greed of enormous proportion. While people were groaning under the heavy yoke of tribalism, the ultra tribalistic were utterly insensitive. Tribalism divided people and this partly led to the abrogation of the Addis Ababa Agreement when the oppressed agitated for a relief like any oppressed could. This should have been a lesson to the people of South Sudan that tribalism and nepotism would ultimately lead to disintegration when a breaking point was reached. Like corruption tribalism should be seen as cancerous to nation building because it encourages oppression of others mistakenly for a shallow concept of unity. In this modern world no one in their right senses will ever put up with naked hegemony and oppression. It is therefore the duty of each and every South Sudanese to fight tribalism and nepotism tooth and nail in building a vibrant nation that is a paradise for all but not for a few who seem to have erroneously assumed that they have god-given special rights and privileges.
Corruption does not only occur in South Sudan. Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon since the beginning of creation. However, corruption can be managed at tolerable levels through a robust system of check and balance. Corruption does not occur in a vacuum. People are involved in it as employees, entrepreneurs or officials in an establishment. When a government is seen as corrupt it is because of some officials being unscrupulous and worse when the government seems impotent to do anything. In South Sudan the government has ever since announced zero tolerance to corruption. The intention is there and strong but what is most needed is commitment with verifiable outcome that indeed corruption is being tackled head-on. According to an opinion poll in Sudanic magazine of March/April 2008 Vol. 1 Issue 2 the government was seen as 90 per cent corrupt and inefficient, and these were cited as the main reasons for the lack of development in South Sudan. Four years later in 2012 75 senior past and present government officials have been associated with 4 billion US$ unaccounted for. This clearly suggests that instead of corruption being reduced it is on the rise. Recovery of money from government coffers unaccounted for is a mammoth task indeed.
The rule of law
No one is above the law is what the transitional constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 says. However, the enforcement of the law has been something of a challenge. Anyone who goes against the law is responsible for their action. This is usually arrived at after an investigation. When a person is suspected of a criminal offense but no investigation has taken place for evidence in the court of law, it is difficult to conclude that the person is a criminal. Anyway it is the court to judge and confirm whether a person is a criminal or innocent of the alleged crime committed. For the 75 officials associated with the loss of 4 billion US$, it seems no criminal charges have been filed against them. Instead the officials have been requested to return the unaccounted for money either in full or in part in return for an amnesty. This has been a very generous offer that only the hardened corrupt will not heed. People associated with embezzlement of public funds are usually subjected to a thorough investigation to establish how the funds went missing in the first place for criminal charges to follow as may be appropriate. The 4 billion US$ is no small amount of money. The money could have been used to build modern road network for faster development in South Sudan. This is just to mention one example of how the money could have accelerated socio-economic development. There are people suspected, investigated, charged, convicted and sentenced for far less money than those associated with the 4 billion US$. An example is the undersecretary of the central ministry of education who was suspected, investigated, charged, convicted and sentenced for far less money than that of some of the suspected corrupt sharks. The rule of law must be seen to be applied with less favoritism and discrimination.
Best way of fighting corruption
People may need to develop theories in the effort to fight corruption successfully from all angles. One such theory is to accord the opposition in parliament a greater role in the fight against corruption. The opposition should not be seen as destructive but rather a partner in all the efforts for nation building. The opposition itself should be positive in seeing its role as complementary to the majority party in government for national interest. The government should give the opposition support through a parliamentary committee formed to fight corruption. Keen on having a good image and as a government in waiting, the opposition will likely fight corruption with vigour. The government in turn will be seen as a robust fighter of corruption by being transparent as it is cooperating with the opposition to have a corrupt free country. This is one best way of fighting corruption in South Sudan. It will also show that partisan politics does not interfere with people’s desire to reduce corruption in the national interest. Political parties should be seen in light of their programmes for the country. No political party wants to be seen condoning corruption. It is therefore in the interest of all that joint effort should be made in reducing corruption to a level that does not cause a very big worry. The party in opposition is in a better position to fight corruption because it is supposed to scrutinize government activities that should meet people’s aspirations. This is because the party in government may sometimes turn a blind eye to government’s shortcomings where the party hardly criticizes the government hence itself. Therefore, one best way of fighting corruption in South Sudan is for the parliament to give the opposition a greater role.
The president and the speaker have set the ball rolling. It is now for each and every citizen to stand up against corruption and tribalism, the two main challenges in nation building. Corruption here refers specifically to misappropriation of public funds and misuse of public property while tribalism is favoritism accorded to people of one’s tribe regardless of merit in employment, award of contracts, promotion and restatement in previous appointments. As can be seen South Sudan has its fair share of corruption and tribalism. However, people should not panic that corruption and tribalism will lead people down the drain. It is only the kind of policy of appeasement in disregard to the rule of law should, nevertheless, be worrying. No one is so powerful that they are above the law. Even the powerful Sadam Hussein of Iraq eventually faced the law and was hanged like a common criminal. Charles Taylor the former president of Liberia will be languishing in jail for the rest of his life.
In conclusion, it is the political will to stamp out corruption and tribalism that is all needed. The political will includes giving the opposition a greater role as one best way of fighting corruption and tribalism for a strong united South Sudan that meets all the aspirations of its citizens without discrimination.
The author can be reached at [email protected]