Thomas C. Mountain
South Sudan’s leaders have stolen at least $10 billion in oil revenues shared with them by Sudan in the past 7 years. With somewhere between $12 to $17 billion turned over to South Sudan, Africa’s newest “government”, during this time frame some say estimates of only $10 billion stolen is too conservative.
South Sudan has about 8 million people so the oil revenues amount to somewhere between $1,500 to $2,000 per man, woman, and child in a country where every day hundreds if not thousands die from hunger and disease.
Where has the $10 billion gone? In some cases directly into London City bank accounts, never having made it into South Sudan’s official treasury. In one instance the South Sudanese Minister of Finance managed to have $300 million “disappear” at one time.
And what has South Sudan to show for its $12 billion+ share of the oil revenues? Almost no infrastructure, few schools, fewer medical facilities and millions suffering from malnutrition and sickness.
The South Sudanese leadership can’t even claim to have spent the money on their military for they have little in the way of modern armament, never mind all the claims of Israeli arms sales to them.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), if you can call it that, for years was revolting over unpaid salaries, resulting in the USA stepping in and providing over $100 million a year to pay its salaries since the last major mutiny in 2009.
The SPLA itself is an ethnic or tribal based military force with little centralized control. Ethnic minorities make up the companies, brigades or even divisions that are based in their own tribal territories. When tribal conflicts over land and water rights break out the local militias quickly call in their “big brothers” in the SPLA and local conflicts become inter-SPLA warfare.
Many times the local commanders are at odds with the largest, ethnically Nok based units and do not coordinate their actions with them.
In other words, there are serious doubts whether South Sudan’s President Salva Kir actually controls South Sudan’s army. The latest attack on Heglig, recognized internationally as part of Sudan, may not have been initiated by Salva Kir but by the local SPLA commander.
Since convincing South Sudan to stop all oil production in late January 2012 (see “US Plan To Destabilize Sudan”) the USA has continued its history of broken promises and blackmail against both parties and failed to deliver the aid it was secretly promising to South Sudan if it implemented the USA’s plan to evict China from Sudan’s oil fields and, in killing two birds with one stone, destabilizing or even bringing down the Bashir government in Sudan by depriving it of its main source of income.
After three months without any oil income at all, South Sudan President Salva Kir had to take an emergency trip to China, hat in hand, to try and keep his government afloat, returning with a Chinese promise of some $8 billion in aid. Hopefully he has learned not to trust the USA, though one should not hold one’s breath in this regard.
The World Bank has also signed a several hundred million dollar “loan” agreement with a very smug looking South Sudanese robber baron, a.k.a. Finance Minister, though no one has bothered asking how with their oil fields shut down, their only source of income, South Sudan will be able to repay the World Bank.
With Hollyweirdo’s such as George Clooney and Angelina Jolie accusing Sudan’s government of everything from food aid blockades to genocide, coupled with the Phony Kony/Silent Children 2012 PR blitz that has the CIA’s fingerprints all over it via the Enough Project (the people of north Uganda, the region the program claimed to be portraying, threw stones at the screen when it was shown there), western attention has been diverted from the real reason for the suffering in South Sudan due to the massive theft of almost all of the countries income.
While the USA certainly has a hidden hand behind the recent fighting between South Sudan and Sudan, hunger, disease, and the missing $10 billion may very well be behind South Sudan’s recent military offensive against Sudan. As the saying goes “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels”, what better way to distract your people from hunger, disease and Grand Theft International than starting a war with your erstwhile partner.
One thing is for sure and that is that South Sudan has more than its share of scoundrels and that the USA has more dirty tricks up its sleeve for the people of the region.
Thomas C. Mountain is an independent western journalist based in the Horn of Africa, and has been living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. He was a member of the 1st US Peace Delegation to Libya in 1987
This article originally appeared on Foreign Policy Journal