A new report by Washington-based investigative and policy organization, The Sentry, reveals how corruption is crippling the South Sudanese economy. The report, titled Cash Grab, details how corrupt leaders have siphoned nearly $1 billion in loans provided by banks in Qatar and Kenya into the coffers of international shell companies linked to President Salva Kiir’s family and his inner circle – including the central bank governor and top military officials.
A few months after independence in 2011, the Bank of South Sudan (the apex bank) signed several loan agreements with the Qatar National Bank (QNB) and CfC Stanbic, Kenya (a subsidiary of South African Standard Bank Group). The loan agreements allowed South Sudan to borrow $993 million in lines of credit – $793 million from QNB and $200 million from CfC Stanbic.
The funds were disbursed between 2012 and 2015 to support efforts to import much-needed food, fuel, and medicine to the war-torn and newly independent country. It could have done more to aid national development. On the other hand, the country is supposed to repay the credit lines through the oil production it hoped to resume soon.
Since the disbursement of the loans, none of the shell companies has provided any goods or services to South Sudanese. And to date, nobody has been queried. The investigative report noted that the disbursement process developed into a confusing, disjointed system that corrupt actors circumvented or subverted.
Many South Sudanese now wallow in abject poverty and starvation. In January, the World Bank estimated that about 82 per cent of South Sudanese endured poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 per day. The East African country currently ranks 185 out of 189 on the global poverty index.
The small nation of South Sudan
South Sudan is a landlocked country located in East Africa. The nation is surrounded by Ethiopia, the Republic of Sudan (Sudan), the Central African Republic, DR Congo, Uganda and Kenya.
It was once a part of Sudan, but after decades of bitter internal conflicts, it eventually gained independence in 2011. That came on the heels of a peaceful referendum conducted between January 9th to 15th of that year to determine independence.
South Sudan has a small population. Worldometers estimated it to have about 11.4 million people as of press time. The African nation has vast natural deposits such as petroleum, gold, iron ore, marble, dolomite, aluminium, arable agricultural land, rivers, and livestock. Yet, it remains one of the weakest and most underdeveloped countries globally.
The country’s situation is the case of a beast deprived of food and dying of starvation amid plenty. While the corrupt officials are yet to be held accountable, the East African country is now bearing the brunt of repaying the loans it never benefited from.