By Justin Ambago Ramba
September 18, 2011 — It is no secret that one of the outstanding political changes in Africa which more than not is attributable to the post 9/11 US foreign policy shift is the coming of South Sudan into the central stage of the world politics. Nobody knew that the fate of this people who led one of Africa’s longest liberation struggles in the modern history would change so dramatically as it did soon as the US changed its’ polices and alliances in the Arab and Islamic region.
As a fact of history, the way to South Sudan’s independence wasn’t any easy. To put it mildly, it was in defiance of many old regional political traditions and negatively held views about secessionism in the African continent that the new Republic of South Sudan (RSS) deservedly made it to become the world’s newest state. But as we follow some of the stories as they unfold, one is left with the impression that there is more to this new nation’s politics than that meets the eye.
South Sudan ceases to appear young when it comes to how it creates multi-millionaires overnight. Still classified as one of the world’s poorest state though oil producing, the country surprising against all odds has the highest rate of freedom fighters turned public fund looters. One may ask how come that such things be allowed to go on unabated in an age where good governance and accountability are not only the dominant slogans of the new world order, but are in fact being taught on regular basis by the countless Western NGOs and their local counterparts to all management levels in the developing countries who heavily depend on USAID and EU development funds and partnership.
Today as I write, politics is about to take a different turn in South Sudan, and even the SPLM party which by design prides itself for commanding an unquestionable majority in running the state machinery is realising that, in the absence of the traditional scapegoat, it will only have itself to blame for its long accumulating dirty records on delivery of services and the rampant mismanagement of resources.
It is true that South Sudan by necessity is a nation whose people’s expectations see no limit; however it is the lack of the limit to greed for power and public money that has taken the lead under President Salva Kiir’s leadership. The new republic has much to leave every one’s mouth gapping in surprise.
The Radio Miraya (South Sudan) a news portal of high integrity, published in its local news column that came out on the 7th of September 2011 some of the most fascinating deliberations by the RSS National Legislative Assembly on the performance of the South Sudan Anti-Corruption Commission as it presented its claims of investigations into some 60 cases of corruption and the recovery of more than SSP 120 million (approx. $20 million) that was swindled through corruption in a report read out by Dr. Pauline Riak, the Commission’s Chairperson.
Despite Dr. Pauline Riak’s assertion that many other cases had been referred to other investigations agencies, she seemed to have failed to impress her audience; for it was apparent that the shift in regional power balance as influenced by the new political landscape is beginning to bite. And no wonder when Paul Akol MP demanded an answer to why the Commissioner’s report made no any reference to the mushrooming South Sudanese millionaires who have accumulated wealth under very suspicious circumstances, it left the impression that whatever Dr. Pauline Riak and her Commission was engaged in over the years since they became operational is way behind what the common South Sudanese citizen already knows.
It is the story of the so-called “13 top corrupt South Sudanese” whose list is believed to be out there that continues to dominate the discussion in the elite circles, since it was first made public by the word of mouth a few days following the independence celebrations on 9th July 2011. Again it was the Radio Miraya in its coverage of the National Legislative Assembly’s deliberations on corruption that confirmed the high level of anxiousness which surrounds this “political abscess”, when it wrote and I quote:
“Legislators however wondered why “the 13 people” cited on the American list of alleged top corrupt South Sudanese officials were not mentioned in the report.” Radio Miraya wrote on 7th September 2011.
However, this is not the first time that legislators and the members of the press have tried to bring to light this story of “ the 13 top corrupt”officials, as similar attempts can be traced back to the day the names of the new government cabinet were taken to the Parliament for approval. According to the renowned Sudan Tribune 31 August 2011, an MP was quoted as saying:
“The MPs of the SPLM caucus also criticised the lack of consultations within the party in the process of nominations. They said the President instead informally consulted with unimportant individuals and not the SPLM as an institution.”
“They also initially demanded that the President should first show them the list 13 ministers believed to be involved in corruption so that the parliament could make sure that their appointment are not endorsed. However, the ruling party’s caucus finally compromised their position; he added and decided to approve all the appointed ministers and their deputies during the parliamentary sitting on Wednesday despite the concerns about their involvement in corruption.” He added.
As can be seen, the public and some of the lawmakers are trying to fight this battle with the government, but specifically so with President Kiir directly for there is a strong believe that a credible international body, probably a development partner of South Sudan has raised up the issues of the “the 13 top corrupted politicians” with the President. And the SPLM leadership’s choice of silence on the issues assuming that it will eventually die away is a miscalculation, because the continuous rise in the cost of living is likely to bring the topic to the front.
Again, it won’t go well for President Kiir should at all he chose to side with what is widely perceived as internationally identified bunch of thieves and greedy politicians, while the helpless returnees and immensely compromised children die of hunger and malnutrition. It will no longer be business as usual when diabolical politicians out of sheer greed and wickedness make it away with what is clearly stolen wealth while poverty associated diseases unabatedly take precious lives even within what technical are the President’s kinsmen’s backyards.
Any moment as it passes one cannot tell for certain what the other would bring, nonetheless the average citizen will have to re-evaluate his/her position over the massive disillusionment with the economic stagnation, rapidly growing unemployment rate amongst the youth, the rocketing prices of essential commodities, and worse still is the desperation of waking up to face yet the same fate another day.
President Salva Kiir and his deputy forever Dr. Riek Machar both continue in their silence as the debate on ‘the 13 top corrupt South Sudanese’ boils. Sadly though, this worrisome silence comes against a background of a series of inter-communal killings dubbed as cattle rustling. Whatever the real nature of the killings where the President’s home state of Warrap is depicted against its neighbours in the Unity state, vice President Dr. Riek Machar’s stronghold, one thing is for certain that the two leaders are for tactical reasons choosing to be complacent in what looks like, ‘the magic turn against the magician’.
This case at hand has more to it than the SPLM leadership would want it to appear, for how can our universities which represent our true sovereign dignity, national pride, and state symbols and our hopes for a better future stand helpless with no clues of how they can function without accommodation for students, no libraries, no laboratories, no transportation budgets etc etc, etc …….when all these could have been possible under responsible government with the political will to reclaim back to the people what has been stolen from them.
The new Republic of South Sudan and its people for a very good reason see in the US government an indispensable friend in spite of the fact that most of the stolen money is likely to end up in the US banks while not excluding Europe and Australia. Nonetheless, it will be to the interest of the two allies for President Obama administration to offer the lead in helping the nascent state fight corruption by exposing corrupted South Sudanese officials and deny them any safe havens on the American soil.
South Sudanese people are keenly following the development that the US President Barack Obama will sooner than later be meeting, hopefully next week (last week of September 2011) in the margins of the UN General Assembly with the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit with the intention to mark his support to the world’s newest state. He too is aware of the many political and economic challenges that continue to face the newly independent state. And according to the Sudan Tribune 16.09.2011, Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security advisor did express optimisms on the meeting between the two men, when he was quoted as saying:
“We [US government] welcome, of course, South Sudan as the newest member state of the United Nation. The United States has played a long role in supporting a resolution to the conflict in the Sudan and self-determination for the south Sudanese,” said the advisor.
As good as it is for our friends to identify with us in public gatherings, they must remember that they have moral obligation not only to pamper us with sweet words, or well wrapped aid packages that we can carry away, but they are also expected as friends help us put our house in order.
International pressure on President Kiir may be all that is needed to make him break his silence on “the 13 most corrupt South Sudanese” bring them immediately to justice and recover the public funds that are illegally in the wrong possession. However, should his silence be driven by the worst case scenario suggesting implicitness, and then it becomes either him or South Sudan. For it doesn’t really matter when people will finally be forced to conclude that the President himself is one of “those top 13”, because for the many lives lost, the much blood spilled, the huge sacrifices done and the sufferings of the masses that continue to date, the whole system will just have to go one way or the other. But as for the discontent and the dissent, they are surely brewing, and fast.
Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba is the Secretary General of the United South Sudan Party (USSP). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com