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S. Sudan Presidential Aides Face Prosecution for Alleged Graft, Forgery

The State House in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 25, 2016, as President Kiir waits for UN secretary general. A court will soon begin hearing a case in which senior officials in President Kiir’s office have been accused of stealing millions of dollars from state coffers.

A South Sudan court will soon begin hearing a case in which senior officials in President Salva Kiir’s office have been accused of stealing millions of dollars from state coffers and forging the president’s signature, according to Ateny Wek Ateny, presidential spokesman.

South Sudanese citizens have expressed shock following reports that officials working in the office of the president are accused of stealing public funds, which could have been used to take care of citizens displaced by the country’s conflict.

An investigation concluded that President Kiir’s signature was forged on documents that ordered the withdrawal of funds from the Central bank on several occasions.

Millions allegedly withdrawn

Millions of dollars, as well as millions of South Sudanese pounds, were allegedly withdrawn with the forged documents. Local media reported that the scandal has become an embarrassment to the president and his administration in Juba.

Ateny disagreed. He says senior officials in the president’s office implicated in the scandal would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. They include the chief administrator and the executive director, both at the office of the president. It is however unclear the role the two played in the scandal, although they were named as being part of the scheme.

The chief administrator and the executive director have worked with Kiir for at least 7 years, even when he was the first vice president of Sudan, before South Sudan became an independent country, according to Ateny. They are currently detained as they await trial.

“A lieutenant at the office of the president for a very long time started to forge documents in which he also forged the signature of the president and forged a number of stamps in the office of the president including the coat of arms. He had been operating until it was recently found [out] that he might have siphoned a lot of million dollars.But, the investigation has not yet disclosed as to how much monies were taken as a result of that forgery,” said Ateny.

Lack of transparency

Opponents say Kiir is to blame for not implementing measures in the office that ensure transparency, due diligence, as well as enforced checks and balances. They also said the scandal echoes their concerns that the government in Juba is way over its head in the country’s governance.

“You cannot blame the president in this case simply because the president is neither the account officer nor the deciding factor on this issue,” said Ateny.

Critics say it is unlikely the accused would receive a fair trial because of the sensitive positions they occupied in the president’s office and the potential political implication for Kiir. Ateny disagreed, saying the judiciary is independent, adding that the president wants to ensure due process. He also denied media reports that family members of the accused have asked Kiir to pardon them.

“None of their family members have come to President Salva Kiir to forgive them. They know this is the process of the law; the investigation has been concluded and now it is the turn of the court of law to decide,” said Ateny.