Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, told the U.N. Human Rights Council on Wednesday that “brazen embezzlement” In south sudan is aided and abetted in these crimes by a number of international corporations and multinational banks,”
“Some of this money has been laundered through the purchase of properties abroad.’’
“To give a flavor of what’s going on – a recent report to parliament by South Sudan’s National Revenue Authority indicates that approximately $300 million U.S. dollars have been ‘lost’ in the last three months alone,” Sooka said.
The U.N. has said more than 6 million people — over half South Sudan’s population — regularly goes hungry.
Sooka’s [slightly edited] statement
South Sudan is a country where lives are being destroyed by financial corruption on an epic scale. Looting and pillage aren’t just offshoots of war – they are arguably the main drivers of the conflict.
At one end of the spectrum, South Sudan’s political elites are fighting for control of the country’s oil and mineral resources, in the process stealing their people’s future. At the other, the soldiers in this conflict over resources are offered the chance to abduct and rape women in lieu of salaries. The eight-year-old girl gang raped in front of her parents is the collateral damage.
The most recent Social Progress Index report looks at the well-being of a society rather than GDP, measuring basic physical needs for life like food and shelter, essential services like health and education, as well as access to fundamental freedoms. To a large extent it’s also a result of the mismanagement of resources.
Our Commission has uncovered brazen embezzlement by senior politicians and Government officials, together with a number of entities linked to the Government. We can reveal the misappropriation of a staggering $36 million US dollars since 2016. It is worth noting this is just what we were able to trace and may not reflect the whole picture.
These represent illicit financial flows from the ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and the National Revenue Authority. Shockingly, these South Sudanese bodies have been aided and abetted in these crimes by a number of international corporations and multinational banks. Some of this money has been laundered through the purchase of properties abroad. Indeed those properties may well be in your countries.
The result is South Sudan’s oil dependent economy is struggling, unable to compensate for the loss in revenue. To give a flavour of what’s going on – a recent report to parliament by South Sudan’s National Revenue Authority indicates that approximately $300 million US dollars have been “lost” in the last three months alone, while the Economic Crisis Management Committee reported that $3.1 million US dollars was “missing” at the Directorate of Nationalities, Passport, and Immigration.
Battered by conflict and corruption, South Sudan has now simply run out of foreign exchange and is unable to prevent the depreciation of their pound. The situation is compounded by the system of dual exchange rates which is abused by political elites who access hard currency at discounted rates, while hyperinflation and the COVID-19 pandemic have deepened poverty for the civilian population. The black-market inflation rates have reached 20+ per cent in just two months.
Layered on top of crisis after crisis comes the COVID-19 pandemic, exposing the structural inequalities that have remained unaddressed for decades. If restrictions on the importation of food continue, and food prices continue to shoot up, there is a possibility of food-related riots or other forms of social unrest.
Madame President, In this internecine situation, tearing communities apart and fuelling ethnic and religious hatred, women and girls remain the major casualties. The lack of accountability for the serious international crimes being committed demands the attention of Member States of this Council.Without this, the cycle of destruction and impunity will not be broken.
Madam President, Sexual exploitation and abuse by Government officials is rife in South Sudan. The Commission uncovered a sex racket involving Government officials’ exploitation of young girls. Nothing illustrates better the total impunity that exists for sexual and gender-based crimes in South Sudan.
In a country where the bride price is exorbitant in terms of cattle, the freedom to abduct young girls and force them into marriage is a terrible incentive to commit abduction and rape with no fear of consequences.
We heard credible reports of girl children as young as eight years old suffering multiple forms of rape and sexual violence. In many cases the parents and family members have been forced to watch as they are gang raped by multiple perpetrators.