South Sudan officials have stolen $4 bln-president
Mon Jun 4, 2012 1:05pm GMT
* Letter sent to 75 current and former officials
* Country scrambling to make up for lost oil revenue
* Many South Sudan officials are former rebel fighters
By Hereward Holland
JUBA, June 4 (Reuters) - South Sudanese officials have "stolen" an estimated
$4 billion of public money and should return it to salvage the young
nation's reputation and help lift its people out of poverty, the president
said in a letter seen on Monday.
The request came as the central African country, which seceded from Sudan
less than a year ago, is scrambling for cash to make up for the loss of
almost all state revenues with the shutdown of its oil output in January.
Critics have accused the government of President Salva Kiir doing little to
clamp down on widespread corruption that has hampered efforts to build the
war-torn state from scratch and jumpstart development.
In a letter to 75 current and former officials dated May 3, Kiir offered
amnesty for officials and individuals with government ties who returned the
"An estimated $4 billion are unaccounted for or, simply put, stolen by
former and current officials, as well as corrupt individuals with close ties
to government officials," Kiir said in the letter obtained by Reuters.
Reliable figures are hard to come by in South Sudan, but the figure could
amount to around one third of the estimated total oil receipts allotted to
the South between the 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war and
independence last year.
"Most of these funds have been taken out of the country and deposited in
foreign accounts. Some have purchased properties, often paid in cash," the
A senior South Sudan government official confirmed to Reuters that the
letter was sent to current, former and deputy ministers in the last ten
Decades of conflict and economic neglect have left the nation of about 8.6
million people with some of the worst health and education statistics on the
planet. Few paved roads exist outside the capital, Juba.
Secession from Sudan last July sparked widespread optimism among South
Sudanese that their country would at last head toward prosperity, but
lingering disputes with Khartoum and corruption have hobbled the economy
South Sudan's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said over half of
the estimated $4 billion was from the country's so-called "durra" scandal,
in which a large government purchase of sorghum was allegedly never
"It is a colossal sum," he said.
"WE FORGOT WHAT WE FOUGHT FOR"
South Sudan's ruling party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM),
largely consists of former rebels who fought against Khartoum. Few have deep
experience with civilian institutions or economic management.
Financial oversight, where it exists at all, is weak.
"We fought for freedom, justice and equality. Many of our friends died to
achieve these objectives. Yet, once we got to power, we forgot what we
fought for and began to enrich ourselves at the expense of our people," the
"The credibility of our government is on the line."
>From 2005 until independence, Khartoum and Juba officially split oil
revenues evenly - giving the South roughly $2 billion per year.
In November, South Sudan said it had contracted oil sales worth $3.2 billion
for the period between July 9 and Dec. 31. It is unclear how much was
The landlocked country took control of about 350,000 barrels a day of oil
output - around 75 percent of Sudan's total - at partition, but failed to
agree how much it should pay Khartoum to use pipelines running through
That dispute prompted the new nation to shut off its production in January,
instantly erasing about 98 percent of state revenues and the country's
dominant source of dollars.
Although the government has adopted an austerity budget to help curtail
spending, a leaked document from the World Bank estimates foreign reserves
will run out in July. South Sudanese officials insist the assessment
overstates the danger.
South Sudan's anti-corruption committee has recovered an estimated $60
million from fraudulent transactions and misappropriation of funds by
government officials, the president's office said in a June 1 press release.
It said Kiir sent eight letters to heads of state in Africa, the United
States, Middle East, and Europe in January seeking assistance in the
recovery of stolen funds by current and former South Sudanese officials.
(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy; Writing by Hereward Holland and
Alexander Dziadosz; editing by Ron Askew)
Sudan, S.Sudan start first security talks since border clash
Mon Jun 4, 2012 3:27pm GMT
* Both sides at odds over border, oil
* Clashes in April threatened all-out war
* Defence ministers attend talks (Adds fresh accusations from South Sudan)
By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA/KHARTOUM, June 4 (Reuters) - Sudan and South Sudan on Monday
began their first direct high-level talks on border security since a series
of frontier clashes threatened to drag the former civil war foes back into a
Perched atop some of Africa's most significant crude reserves, the two
countries have been mired in disputes over oil revenues and demarcation of
their border since South Sudan gained independence in July.
The two countries returned to African Union-mediated talks last week, after
the United Nations threatened to impose sanctions if they failed to stop
fighting along the border and hammer out a deal.
"We are here for the joint political and security mechanism meetings - the
body ... that is primarily drawing up the safe and demilitarised border
zone," South Sudan's Foreign Minister Nhial Deng told Reuters.
"We are always optimistic, you have to because it is optimism that fuels
hope and hope helps you achieve success."
The defence and interior affairs ministers of both countries were also
attending the negotiations, as well as military figures, officials said.
Tensions are still running high. South Sudan's chief negotiator Pagan Amum
accused Sudan of keeping some security forces in a disputed border region
despite pulling out most of its forces to pave the way for talks.
South Sudan has also accused Khartoum of launching repeated air strikes on
its territory. Juba announced on Friday it had filed a complaint at the U.N.
Khartoum regularly denies accusations it is bombing South Sudan's border
states, some of which are oil-producing. Such accusations are hard to verify
as the remote area is difficult to access.
The talks had been cut short after South Sudan seized the Heglig oil field
in a disputed border region in April, only to withdraw later under heavy
South Sudan has criticised Sudan for insisting on discussions on security
ahead of other issues, in defiance of the U.N. peace plan.
Sudanese officials denied making preconditions.
"The meetings will kick-start this afternoon and we are hopeful these issues
will be addressed in a very genuine and action oriented way," said Omer
Dahab, spokesman of Khartoum's delegation.
Sudan paved the way for the resumption of talks on Friday after it announced
the withdrawal of its security forces from the disputed Abyei region, as
demanded by the United Nations.
But South Sudan negotiator Amum said Khartoum was still keeping around two
battalions of national intelligence and security forces in Abyei's oil
"They (Security Council) confirmed the withdrawal of armed forces from Abyei
town and ... the police forces have also been withdrawn. Now we are having
what they call security forces which are part of the armed forces of Sudan.
They must withdraw as per the resolution," he said.
There was no immediate response from Khartoum.
Abyei, seized by northern troops last year, is a major bone of contention
between the two countries. It has fertile grazing land and some oil
In Khartoum, the head of the Sudanese side of the joint Abyei administration
accused members of the southern Dinka tribe, which is allied to Juba, of
trying to cause chaos in the region after the army's withdrawal.
"There were some provocations and property of citizens was looted," Khair
al-Fahim told reporters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
"We call on the U.N. peacekeepers to stop these provocations," said Fahim
who belongs to the Arab Misseriya tribe, which is allied to Khartoum.
South Sudanese overwhelmingly voted to secede from Sudan in a referendum
last year, promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north-south
The new, landlocked South inherited most of the old united Sudan's known oil
reserves. But it shut down production in January to stop Khartoum taking oil
for what the latter called unpaid export fees. (Additional reporting by Ulf
Laessing; Writing by Aaron Maasho and Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by
Sudan fighting drives 35,000 refugees into S.Sudan
Mon Jun 4, 2012 5:26pm GMT
By Hereward Holland
JUBA, June 4 (Reuters) - About 35,000 Sudanese refugees fleeing fighting
between the army and rebels have crossed into South Sudan in the past three
weeks, stretching water and aid resources to their limits, the United
Nations said on Monday.
Fighting erupted in Sudan's South Kordofan state in June 2011 and spread to
nearby Blue Nile in September. Both states border South Sudan, which seceded
from Khartoum under a 2005 agreement that ended decades of civil war.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said 35,000 people had arrived in South Sudan
from Blue Nile and more were on the way, joining about 70,000 refugees
already living in crowded camps.
"This is a dramatic change in an already difficult humanitarian situation,"
UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement. "Not only are refugee
numbers suddenly much higher, but the condition that many of these people
are in is shockingly bad. Some have been eating tree leaves to survive along
Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said 2,000 people were crossing the
border every day, and camps would run out of water by the end of the week.
Refugees were exhausted from spending months in the bush hiding from
fighting, and also from the trek across the border which took at least two
weeks, the group said.
"We have a real emergency on our hands," Patrick Swartenbroekx, MSF's
emergency coordinator, said in a statement.
Last week, the U.N. Security Council expressed concern over the lack of
access for aid and U.N. agencies to Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
Khartoum accuses South Sudan of supporting rebels in both states, but Juba
denies this. (Reporting by Hereward Holland; Editing by Ulf Laessing and
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Received on Mon Jun 04 2012 - 19:50:00 EDT