Tough road ahead for Juba

By Robert Asketill

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and US President Barak Obama at the White House in Washington DC.

US President Barack Obama spoke this week with South Sudan’s  President Kiir to urge him to build on the recent achievements of the nationality and citizenship agreements initialed by South Sudan and Sudan, and to express hope that the two countries’ heads of state would meet soon at a summit, as they had previously agreed.  President Obama also expressed concern about the growing tensions between South Sudan and Sudan, especially the violent clashes along their shared border and renewed fighting in Southern Kordofan State. 

Mr Obama underscored the importance of avoiding unilateral actions, and asked President Kiir to ensure that South Sudan’s military exercises maximum restraint and is not involved in or supporting fighting along the border, particularly in Southern Kordofan.  The President further emphasized the importance of South Sudan and Sudan reaching an agreement on oil.  President Obama welcomed President Kiir’s commitment to moving forward with a summit and to finding peaceful solutions for Sudan and South Sudan

Certainly this was well sent. Any acts of stupidity by this new nation could develop into serious tribal conflict within South Sudan itself, and with the speed of lightning cross into the North, but as The London Evening Post recently warned, corruption and personal wealth for a few seemingly lies around the corner and President Obama knows he has a difficult fight to stop it. To suddenly emerge from a small village hut to have before you the means of purchasing a mini palace or to shop for a luxurious villa in some foreign land, is a temptation so often seen in Africa.

To learn that the Southern Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Deng Alor has announced after his recent visit to Angola that the country will offer financial assistance that will help to fill the gap left by the oil wells they are shutting down, is not comfortable reading. Alor said his visit to Angola was to establish economic and political cooperation and while there, he met with the Angola National Oil Company, SONANGOL, an organisation boasting of being one of the most successful oil companies in Africa. Deng Alor said they have agreed that the company should establish cooperation with South Sudan Nile Pet and assist by sharing their experience in the oil industry with the South Sudanese. He seems to forget that in December 2011, Human Rights Watch said that the Government of Angola should explain the whereabouts of US$32 billion missing from government funds linked to Sonangol. A December 2011 report by the International Monetary Fund said that government funds were spent or transferred from 2007 through 2010 without being properly documented in the budget.

Deng Alor has nothing to be proud of. The Sudan has an oil complex that works. His manipulations without further political discussions, spells disaster that has shown itself in Angola where accusations of personal enrichment percolate up towards the top of the state structure. In 2006 the head of the external intelligence service, General Fernando Miala, alleged that $2 billion of Chinese money intended for infrastructure projects had disappeared. He claimed that the funds had been transferred to private accounts in Hong Kong by senior officials, though without naming people mentioned in this article. The general was swiftly sacked, tried and imprisoned.

We have read that parts of the Angola-China oil trade appear to be contaminated by conflicts of interest. The Angolan president’s son is said to be a director of China Sonangol, soon on its way to Juba, the main trading partner of the Angola state oil company. The London-based Economist magazine, like others, has tried opening discussions on the rumours but requests for comment have gone unanswered by the companies. As well as running both the state oil company and its main customer, Mr Vicente, former football player and former teacher, became a director of private foreign companies linked to the syndicate. Although these may exist for tax purposes, a report on foreign corruption prepared for the USA Senate reveals that Sonangol was deemed so corrupt in 2003 that Citibank closed all its accounts.

The report also says that Mr Vicente personally owns 5 per cent of Sonangol’s house bank which has assets worth $8.2 billion. According to the IMF and the World Bank, billions of dollars have disappeared from Sonangol’s accounts. At one point Sonangol awarded Mr Vicente a one per cent ownership stake in the company he chairs: he was forced to give it back after a public outcry in Angola. Let us hope that a new family of billionaires is not created in Juba whilst the poor live on in wretchedness as they do today in Angola.

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