By Martin Garang Aher
If South Sudan had inherited anything from the Sudan which is so counter-progress, so dehumanising and so much against the very reason for independence, it is corruption. Corruption or baksheesh, as it is known in Sudan and some nations in the Arab world, has horrifically grown into a customary among the public officials of the new republic. It looks like the system in place - including the functions and operations of the anti-corruption body- has no enough tentacles to ensnare this malignant anti-development and brings it to its finale. A few months into the independence as a sovereign nation and no sign is visible from the government on how to tackle issues related to corruption. The anti-corruption has thus slipped into oblivion. It never says anything even as public officials declare their wealth whether they are living below or above their means.
The only credible indication that greets the public whenever a corruption case appears is an attempt by the SPLM to round it off to one infinite answer - blaming some of the members within the rank and file of the movement for what is obviously a government embezzlement of public funds. The public is left with no doubt that the scheme and other tactical planks used by the SPLM are for covering up the whole matter in a single wrapping. But could this be the real answer to the element of corruption in the system?
In 2007, an investigation was launched into what appeared to be the new country's huge financial scandal in which a finance minister, Arthur Akuein Chol, was implicated. The government was in a sheer disbelief and shaken for what might transpire in such an investigation. The results of the investigation were going to delegitimise the ruling party in the eyes of the citizens who have placed a fair amount of trust in the people's party. Before the investigation could be finalised, Arthur was quickly arrested by the judge and minister who cared less about the due process of law as enshrined in the investigation. The judge, Justice Makuei Lueth, failed to wait for the due process of law which provides that, pending an investigation, a person should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He covertly invited Arthur for some talks and promptly had him arrested. Even Arthur's lawyer wasn't aware of the events that were unravelling with his client. In was in the same spirit that Arthur was freed by his supporters who feared the game was intended to end in one man's show, in which Arthur was to be the only scapegoat culprit in the corruption ring. The report to the parliament had earlier indicated that between 2005-2006 financial year, $1 billion went unaccounted for from the national treasury.
A few years have since passed when earlier this year; Arthur Achuein Chol accused the SPLM Secretary General, Pagan Amum, of having the knowledge of the whereabouts of $30 million dollars transferred to the party's account. Arthur did make a mistake somehow by failing to differentiate between the SPLM as a party and its Secretary General in the person of Pagan Amum, who is responsible for the affairs of the party. He later lost the court case due to that articulation error. It appeared he never stuffed the money into personal account of the party's secretary, as acknowledged by the court in the defamation case. This was the deciding position of the presiding judge. Surprisingly nonetheless, the court admitted the money was wired to the party's accounts by Mr. Arthur Achein Chol as commanded by the 'orders from above.' 'The above' must be high above indeed! The judge Lado, under duress from the chief justice Chan Reec Madut, who made his intimidating presence in the court on the day of the hearing, presumably in an effort to protect 'the above,' fined Arthur the sum of US$37,000 for the defamation of Pagan Amum, the party's Secretary General, or The SG, as he is famously referred to.
Where then, had this fiasco left the nation? The vast majority of South Sudanese seem to think mechanically on the issue and have therefore settled on the fact that Arthur remains the culprit and Pagan Amum is innocent. The issue has therefore become a government - controlled and tribally or regionally oriented saga. No doubt while Pagan was keenly celebrating his innocence, the SPLM party was feeling an allergic impact from the ruling. The public too, gullible on the festooned personality of the secretary general and the endeared party, never thought twice of what it meant when the judge declared Pagan innocent on the premise that the party's accounts were in receipt of the money. No one wants to hear that the people's party is implicated despite the fact that all the big sharks of the SPLM party have grown richer in a short span of time. Are we clear about the ruling in the first place?
Since the nation has inherited the robotic judicial system that characterised the Sudan we parted with, no justice is independent and vocal enough to probe the SPLM for corruption. Arthur hinted again that he would appeal the case, probably to straighten his language more appropriately by bringing the SPLM into the arena as a suspect in the corruption case. If he goes on with it - though this would be a personal tragedy he must be hunting for - will the SPLM party honestly answer the charges of corruption brought against it, or will it pirouette in the weakness of the judicial system that have already made its mark in the country?
It is now clear the culprit in the corruption scam is the SPLM party, not individuals like Pagan Amum The SG, or The Scapegoat, Arthur Achuein Chol.
If the nation is serious about probing corruption, the former SPLM warlords, must not be allowed to twirl in the ring accusing and counter accusing each other. They will only fool everybody. The body that shadows them must come with them to the court in whole.