Millions of U.S Dollars Illicitly diverted by elites in South Sudanese Government. U.N Expert Report says.

United Nations Human RightsUnited Nations Human Rights
South Sudan’s leaders are undermining human rights and endangering security. According to investigations carried out by the Commission over the past two years, more than $73 million USD was diverted since 2018, including transactions worth almost $39 million USD in a period of less than two months. The Commission noted that this figure is only a fraction of the overall amount looted; as President Salva Kiir himself admitted as far back as 2012, South Sudan’s ruling elites had diverted more than $4 billion USD.
The Commission is mandated to monitor and report on the human rights situation in South Sudan, and to clarify responsibility for alleged violations and related crimes, as well as to make recommendations to improve the situation.
In its Conference Room Paper, the Commission has highlighted how the systematic, illicit diversion of State resources has severely undermined the economic, social and cultural rights of citizens. This plundering also continues to fuel political competition amongst elites, and is a key driver of the on-going conflict, violations and serious crimes, jeopardising the prospects for sustainable peace.
The Commission’s recommendations aimed at the Government of South Sudan seek to ensure that the State is able to protect and fulfil the rights of its citizens.
The Commission’s Conference Room Paper also highlights that South Sudan’s elites have deliberately adopted a highly informal system of oil revenue collection, in which the absence of independent oversight and transparency facilitates and enables the misappropriation of public funds. Similarly flawed, non-transparent processes for contract payments, procurements, and revenue are operated illicitly to divert non-oil revenues.
In just one emblematic case, the Commission revealed how a single payment made unlawfully in May 2018 by the Ministry of Finance to Sudanese businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Al-Cardinal, also known as “Al Cardinal”, represented a staggering 21.6 per cent of South Sudan’s total budget for the “Use of Goods and Services” and “Capital Expenditure” for the entire 2018/2019 fiscal year.
Commission Chair Yasmin Sooka said that the Commission’s documentation of the corruption, embezzlement, bribery, and misappropriation of State funds by political elites is merely the tip of the iceberg.
The investigations traced exactly how this money is being diverted, and our findings revealing the patterns and trends of the embezzlement include the involvement of politicians, Government officials, international corporations, military personnel, and multinational banks in these crimes. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the National Revenue Authority, and a number of foreign corporations have all been complicit in this”, she added.
The Commission’s Conference Room Paper also emphasises and draws a link between the illicit diversion of funds and the inadequacy of resources available to public authorities to fulfil their legal obligations to provide for the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights of citizens.
The Commission’s report also highlights that South Sudan’s oil industry is dominated by unaccountable oil consortia, the actions of which have wrought considerable devastation, including environmental degradation and damage impacting on the health of citizens. Oil spills in the Pariang and Rubkona counties of Unity State, for example, have led to pre-term births, stillbirths, congenital anomalies or deaths in new-borns, blindness, male sexual dysfunction, and low fertility.
The report further analyzed a series of preventable health incidents induced by disease and devastating birth defects, including many that can be directly attributed to the presence of crude oil contamination in water, contributing to environmental degradation.
Commission Chair Yasmin Sooka also sighted the harm wreaked by these major oil consortia on local communities, and in particular the impact on infants who continue to suffer from severe birth defects, is utterly egregious and devastating for families.
The Commission also underscored that the illicit gains from economic crimes also serve as a major driver of armed conflict in South Sudan.
South Sudan’s damaging conflicts have been significantly enabled and even motivated by the opportunities to control and divert natural resources as well as oil and non-oil revenues”, said Commissioner Barney Afako. Its sad to note that national authorities and elites have prioritised the financing of military and security apparatuses over investment in public services, infrastructure, and livelihoods.
The government of South Sudan has been strongly urged by the UN Commision to act swiftly and decisively fully to implement Chapter IV of the Revitalised Peace Agreement, which provides the appropriate basis for ensuring the effective resource, economic, and financial management in South Sudan.
The Commission has identified several individuals allegedly linked to human rights violations and related economic crimes, and has included them in its confidential list that will be handed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the purpose of facilitating transitional justice responses, including investigations and prosecutions.
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