A new report, “Weapons of Mass Corruption: How corruption in South Sudan’s military undermines the world’s newest country,” published today by the Enough Project, details massive corruption within South Sudan’s army. Corrupt activities within the army detailed in the report include procurement fraud, irregular spending unchecked by civilian authority, and bloated troop rosters featuring thousands of “ghost” (non-existent) soldiers.
Brian Adeba, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “The effect of corruption in proliferating insecurity in South Sudan cannot be underestimated. The country’s politicians can only begin to realize the fruits of security for their citizens if they tackle the graft in the army.”
The report, fifth in the Enough Project’s “The Political Economy of African Wars” series, describes how despite widespread suffering in South Sudan, including famine-like conditions and the severe economic hardships South Sudanese people experience, massive amounts of the country’s dwindling funds go to the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), where they are diverted and misspent without accountability.
Jacinth Planer, report editor and Editor/Researcher at the Enough Project, said: “On paper, South Sudan’s legal and institutional frameworks enshrine civilian, not military leadership. The SPLA is meant to protect, defend, and hold itself accountable to the South Sudanese people. But the destructive system and practices that have developed now instead work against these purposes, and the South Sudanese people who face great personal risks have paid the highest price. The international community should steadfastly support the South Sudanese people and especially those who try to uphold the institutions that are being undermined today.”
The report finds that within what Enough identifies as a violent kleptocratic system in South Sudan, a lack of financial oversight over military expenditure, combined with heavy influence by political appointees, has created opportunities for mass corruption in the SPLA.
John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project, said: “There is no accountability for the looting of state resources in South Sudan, especially with military spending. The missing piece of an effective international response is the creation of leverage to shift the calculations of these violent kleptocrats from war to peace, from mass corruption—including in the military—to good governance and accountability in spending. The incentives that reward violence and theft must be changed. The international community needs to help make war costlier than peace for the leaders and create targeted and personal consequences for corrupt war-mongers.”
Selected report excerpts:
- Lack of financial oversight for and within the SPLA constitutes a major organizational weakness and creates opportunities for corruption. This deficiency does not stem primarily from a poor legal framework, underdeveloped institutional capacity, or lack of knowledge about international best practice in financial oversight. The deficiency stems from willful, systematic obstruction of financial oversight.
- An army of approximately 230,000 on paper, with a large share of ghost soldiers has little practical purpose. A payroll for a ghost army of that size, however, can have a very important purpose: providing a large opaque budget line to the military. This budget line has not successfully been subjected to rigorous public oversight and auditing.
- Corruption in South Sudan has shifted from being an integrated and self-sustaining system to a disintegrative and self-destructing system in the wake of economic collapse.
- In a nation where resources are scarce and contested, and many people are unable to provide for their basic needs, political appointments in South Sudan empower certain individuals to access public accounts and manage scarce financial resources. There are few effective institutional mechanisms to check the use of public office and public financial resources for individual gain.
- RECOMMENDATIONS: The international community, with U.S. leadership, has the opportunity to create consequences for these predatory actors that harm South Sudanese people. Consequences should include:
- a new U.S. executive order on South Sudan that makes public corruption and misappropriation of state assets grounds for sanctions, as current U.S. sanctions programs do for Belarus, Burma, Libya, Syria, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and Ukraine/Russia.
- U.S. lawmakers should also leverage U.S. anti-money laundering authorities by having the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and other financial intelligence units issue advisories and investigative requests related to South Sudanese military transactions.
About THE ENOUGH PROJECT
The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org.