US reviews engagement policy with South Sudan

US reviews engagement policy with South Sudan
US Senator Corey Booker (photo credit: Associated Press)

Two United States senators have pushed for amendments on the bilateral engagements between Washington and Juba.

In the resolution, commonly referred to as the revitalized policy, senators Cory Booker and James Risch have accused some South Sudanese leaders of failing to provide diligent service to the people.

The lawmakers alleged that the leaders have continued to prioritize ‘self-preservation and corruption’ over its citizens.

 “Leaders of South Sudan have consistently failed to uphold their responsibilities to create the conditions for peace and prosperity, have prioritized self-preservation and corruption over the needs of the people they represent,” part of the Senator’s statement stated.

They added that some “leaders have acted in bad faith in the implementation of cease-fire and peace agreements, and have betrayed the cause of freedom, resulting in the loss of millions of innocent lives.”

They further claimed that the country was yet to rise to better positions in the corruption index.

 “South Sudan ranks 185th of 189 countries in the 2020 Human Development Index, performed the worst of 180 countries on the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index.”

The statement noted that the country had ranked low in the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report every year from 2015 to 2021 and was yet to resolve the thorny issue of recruitment of child soldiers.

Resolutions 

The resolution noted that investment in humanitarian issues and sustenance of conflict mitigation initiatives that have gobbled $1.8 billion since independence should be made tenable.

Washington, therefore, pushes for the adoption of some recommendations under the new engagements.

To this effect, the revitalized policy proposes the addition of more individuals linked to various malpractices into the sanction list.

The policy notes, “…US Secretary of the Treasury to work with the Secretary of State to add to the list of individuals and entities designated under the South Sudan sanctions program, including individuals at the highest levels of leadership in South Sudan…”

To foster this, the US proposes cooperation involving the US Secretary of State, the United Kingdom and the European Union on South Sudan-related sanctions designations and enforcement”.

In addition, the document also proposed punitive measures against those who would be perceived to be violating the arms embargo as well as investigating assets of leaders perceived to be corrupt in the neighboring countries.

“Increases diplomatic efforts to urge regional actors, particularly in Kenya and Uganda, to investigate assets of corrupt South Sudanese elites and ensure Kenya and Uganda are no longer havens for conflict- and corruption-related proceeds.”

However, the effort to reach the government spokesperson Michael Makuei Lueth for a response proved futile as he said he was engaged and could not grant an interview at the time.

The revitalized US engagement policy comes after the UN’s Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan released a report alleging a rip-off of public funds to the tune of more than $73 million transacted since 2018.

UN report accusing the country’s governing elite of looting tens of millions of dollars from public coffers, saying it is the victim of an “international campaign”.

But the report was flagged as misleading by the Minister of Cabinet Affairs Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro, who said it was part of “an international campaign South Sudan government”.

Dr. Lomuro said such reports are fruits of conspirators commissioned to bring instability in South Sudan through wild allegations.

 “These are the organizations that are sponsored not to see political stability in South Sudan and they will move from one thing to the other, from human rights to corruption, from corruption to something else,” Lomuro said.

“This country is sovereign … if the government has mismanaged anything, it’s only the people of South Sudan who can hold this government accountable, not an external force,’’ he added as quoted by AFP.

The commission accused South Sudan’s elites of deliberately adopting a “highly informal” system of oil revenue collection, without independent oversight and transparency, thus enabling the misappropriation of public funds.

“Similarly flawed, non-transparent processes for contract payments, procurements, and revenue are operated illicitly to divert non-oil revenues,” it said in a press release on Thursday.

The report noted that President Salva Kiir was himself alarmed by the gaps in the financial management system which he said were causing lots of wastage of public funds.

‘‘President Salva Kiir admitted that non-oil revenues were not being fully remitted into the single block account of the National Revenue Authority. In fact, and as noted by President Kiir, when collected and managed appropriately, non-oil revenue should be able to meet the Government’s expenditures,’’ the report noted.

It gave an instance where the President remarked in the 2019 presidential speech where the head of state quoted a 2010 report by the National Audit Chamber faulting various government institutions for shying away from keeping records hence abetting corruption.

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