Blog / / 12.09.19

Statement by The Sentry: Sunshine Is the Best Disinfectant

On December 5, the government of South Sudan released a report responding to an investigation by The Sentry. “The Taking of South Sudan: The Tycoons, Brokers, and Multinational Corporations Complicit in Hijacking World’s Newest State,” published September 19, documented how top South Sudanese politicians and military officials responsible for violence and looting received support from individuals and corporations from across the world who have reaped profits from those dealings.

The Sentry’s findings are based on extensive interviews and documentary research. Financial data, independent sources, corporate and other documentation, expert commentary, and press reports are just some of the means The Sentry used to establish the authoritativeness and credibility of obtained information. Persons and entities discussed in the investigation were provided an opportunity to comment. In most cases, they did not respond to The Sentry’s requests. The few responses that were received have been included in our analysis and are otherwise reflected in the report itself. We stand by our reporting.

If the government of South Sudan is going to stand by its declared commitment to transparency, accountability, peace, and respect for human rights, it can take a wide range of proactive steps:

  • Release all the auditor general’s reports. These audits are supposed to be made public, but none have been released since 2012.
  • Release anti-corruption commission reports. These include the government-commissioned World Bank report on the “Dura Saga” grain swindling scandal, the Crisis Management Committee report, and the commission to investigate Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth.
  • Publish asset declarations submitted to the anti-corruption commission, establishing a baseline assessment of the wealth that government and military officials have accumulated legitimately.
  • Expedite the establishment of the hybrid court to provide justice for the victims of war crimes and atrocities committed during the war.
  • Create a public registry of all companies incorporated in South Sudan, including their beneficial owners, build a public database of all companies and citizens that have received government or military contracts, and disclose any payments by private companies to the government for natural resource licenses.

These ideas are not radical; they are widely recognized best practices that would go a long way in combatting documented corruption.

Since September 2016, The Sentry has published reports investigating the extent to which top officials in government and in opposition who are responsible for the war in South Sudan have accrued enormous wealth—along with their commercial collaborators inside and outside the country. Our reports have investigated the extent to which South Sudanese generals, government ministers, national security service agents, officials throughout the presidency, and members of their immediate families have reaped the benefits of political power, operating vast networks of private companies that receive lucrative government contracts and natural resource licenses. We’ve explored the diversion of petroleum revenue to procure weapons, finance military operations, and fund militias responsible for violence. Our team has also identified international companies and banks responsible for moving large sums of money out of the country through questionable transactions. All this has occurred against the backdrop of a brutal civil war that has resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and the displacement of millions of people.

The Sentry is certainly not the only organization that has published reports examining corruption and atrocities in South Sudan. The chorus of civil society groups and international organizations documenting abuses and calling for accountability in South Sudan has only grown louder over the course of the civil war.1

In its press release, South Sudan’s government promised an “illuminating” probe of The Sentry’s report. That much is true. The response illuminates a disturbing trend in South Sudan: the government’s answer to accusations of corruption, human rights abuses, and poor governance has been invariably hostile and dismissive. Instead of investigating credible accusations of heinous crimes committed in the country, the government has sought to silence its critics. Investigations by South Sudan’s auditor general, Anti-Corruption Commission, Ministry of Justice, and internal auditors at various ministries throughout the government have been suppressed. Civil society and the press have been subjected to intimidation, deportation from the country, censorship, arbitrary detention, and violence.

To date, President Salva Kiir and his administration have failed to honor the pledge he made during South Sudan’s independence celebration in 2011 to “remove this cancer” of corruption. He has presided over and benefited from a government that may well have diverted billions of dollars for self-enrichment and to finance horrific and lethal military operations.

Our investigation presents painstakingly gathered documentation indicating as much, as do many other reports from around the world. Our hope is that the government of South Sudan will respond by opening the books and truly embracing transparency as a first step in combating the cancer of corruption in the world’s newest country. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

1. The African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, the U.N. Panel of Experts on South Sudan, Small Arms Survey’s Human Security Baseline Assessment, South Africa’s Mail and Guardian, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Global Witness, Africa Uncensored, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project have all published content examining corruption and atrocities in South Sudan.