SOUTH Sudan’s political and military elite have enriched themselves even as their country has been impoverished by a civil war caused largely by their fight over the spoils, according to a report published Monday.
The report entitled “War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay” (pdf) is by investigative unit The Sentry co-funded by the American actor George Clooney and activist John Prendergast. It spent two years following the money trail.
The report accuses President Salva Kiir, opposition leader and rival Riek Machar, and top military generals and their families of profiteering, and reveals the connection between South Sudan’s elite and the money paid for luxury homes, a large number of mining, oil and financial businesses.
However, to better understand the latest report, Rogue Chiefs believes one needs to first read The Sentry’s 2015 report on South Sudan, entitled “The Nexus of Corruption and Conflict in South Sudan” (pdf).
Beyond the looting, the report 2015 offered important, albeit disturbing, insights into the nature of the state of the young South Sudan nation, and the troublesome structural problems that imperil its prospects. Rogue Chiefs we outline some of the more outrageous ones from 2015 in two parts, this being the first, and also list the 2016 report gems, with little editorialising:
•ITS ALL ABOUT THE BREAD: The reports 2015 said; “The country’s elites have built a kleptocratic regime that controls all sectors of the economy, and have squandered a historic chance for the development of a functional state. These predatory economic networks play a central role in the current civil war, because much of the conflict is driven by elites attempting to re-negotiate their share of the politico-economic power balance through violence.
“Only about 10 to 20% of the country’s revenue goes to the states and rural areas while the rest remains in Juba, and has become the prize for which the country’s armed actors are maneuvering.?
Corruption, therefore, has “become the lifeblood of politics, providing the means to co-opt armed actors, maintain the political power balance, and fund patronage networks.”
•NOT ALL KIIR’S ETHNIC MATES ARE CREATED EQUAL: In July 2013, President Kiir reshuffled his entire cabinet, removing prominent elites, such as former Vice President Riek Machar, and firing a group of ethnically diverse cabinet ministers and high-level officials.
Most of these individuals had played leading roles in the country’s economic and political decisions in the post-independence government, and after being pushed out of the government, many joined a political opposition bloc that soon devolved into an armed opposition.
Meanwhile, Kiir sought to consolidate power around his loyalists, particularly those from his home state of Warrap. Despite this disproportionate representation in ruling circles, the people rarely benefit. Warrap remains one of the least developed states in the country, with a detailed study released in 2013 showing that 93% of households were “severely food access insecure.”
•KHARTOUM IS LORD OF SOUTH SUDAN’S OIL: Oil is the South Sudan’s government primary source of hard currency, as well as its collateral for the foreign loans keeping the economy afloat.
Oil accounted for as much as 98% of South Sudan’s revenues just after independence, but its share had declined to 70% by the 2014-2015 budget as a result of disputes with Khartoum and the ongoing fighting. Between 2008 and 2011, oil revenues amounted to US$8.24 billion or 96% of its total revenues, and 77% of total expenditures, while total crude oil sales between April 2013 and May 2014 amounted to US$3.3 billion sold across 46 shipments.
The portion of this that Juba retains is uncertain; for one, Juba routinely complains that Khartoum takes more than its agreed-upon share, an allegation complicated by the fact that most infrastructure, even the metres to actually measure oil flows, are controlled by Khartoum.
•LOWEST EARNINGS IN WORLD FOR CRUDE OIL: Because of the collapse of global oil prices, and Khartoum’s big cut of Juba’s oil revenues, the 2015 reported noted that the “Government of South Sudan is likely earning as little as $9-12 per barrel, the lowest price in the world for crude oil.”
•THE ARMY EATS IT ALL: South Sudan’s military spending is the highest in the region. One of the most important parallel security ministries is the Office of the President.
The Office of the President’s national security budget in 2014, which was only 6% of the total security budget, was more than the country’s entire infrastructure budget.
Meanwhile, security spending has steadily grown and currently makes up at least 40% of the budget, while only 5% of the budget was allocated to education.
•THE WORLD’S WORST SPENDTHRIFTS? The SPLA and government ministries routinely overspend their annual budgets and receive additional off-budget funds. In the first quarter of 2015, the Office of the President had overspent its allocated budget by 349%, the Ministry of Defense by 150%, and the Veterans Affairs department by 113%. In the 2012-2013 budget period, the Ministry of Roads and Bridges overspent its budget by 1,513%.
•TOO MANY CHIEFS, FEW FOOT SOLDIERS : The South Sudanese military is a very large organisation that binds together conventional forces, paramilitaries, and militias through a large and complicated patronage system that requires significant funding to maintain.
The security force payrolls expanded from an estimated 40,000 in 2004 to 240,000 soldiers in the army alone in 2011, augmented by an additional 90,000 strong paramilitary reserve of policemen, prison warders, and wildlife guards.
The government had at least 745 generals in 2011, each with their own networks to manage.
•A STATE OF GHOSTS: The problem of “ghost soldiers”, or soldiers who only exist on payroll documents, is believed to be one of the primary means of the diversion of funds to security elites.
The SPLA’s own internal audit is reported to have discovered 40,000 “ghost soldiers”, while the Interior Minister publicly admitted to 11,000 ghost police in 2013 compared to an estimated end-strength of 52,000 police.
•HAIL KING KIIR: The personal security budget of the President in particular increased 10,000%, but even seemingly innocuous line items, such as “supplies, tools, and materials”, office stationery, increased almost ten-fold.
•THE PRESIDENT’S INVISIBLE ACCOUNTS: South Sudan’s Anti-Corruption Commission requires financial disclosures by public officials on an annual basis.
According to a presidential spokesperson, Kiir’s last disclosure was in 2012 – he reported that he not have a bank account, either inside or outside the country.
-Part 2 of the 2015 background report follows on September 15, then the highlights from the 2016 publication.