This morning, I listened to a radio program discussing issues of corruption in the government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). This radio show comes just after parliament passed the Anti-Corruption Bill this week. The bill is now sitting on the desk of GoSS President Salva-Kiir Mayardit, waiting to be signed.
corruption |kəˈrəp sh ən|
1 dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery : the journalist who wants to expose corruption in high places.
• the action of making someone or something morally depraved or the state of being so : the word “addict” conjures up evil and corruption.
• archaic decay; putrefaction : the potato turned black and rotten with corruption.
2 the process by which something, typically a word or expression, is changed from its original use or meaning to one that is regarded as erroneous or debased.
• the process of causing errors to appear in a computer program or database.
I’m not sure how much the general public of Sudan really understands corruption. Surely they recognize that it exists, and the word is thrown about here with a fury! However, “corruption” is often used in contexts I would never imagine. A few months ago, I heard someone refer to their family problems as “corruptions,” and earlier this week, at a secondary school debate competition, I heard one of the young men define corruption as, “Conflicts or misunderstandings between the government ministers.”
Back to the radio show. To start it off, the special guest, Philip Chol, the deputy chairman of Southern Sudan’s Anti-Corruption Commission, was extremely late to the program. Between callers, the DJ was putting out pleas to any friends of “the honorable Philip Chol” to call him and remind him of his appointment with the show, in case he had forgotten. When he did arrive, with only 20 minutes remaining in the show, he cited “transport problems” as the reason he was late.
Chol surprised me with his boldness. He said that GoSS lacked the political will to deal with the corruption within it. He bemoaned the fact that although his commission was meant to be the watchdog agency for the government, they are like a “toothless dog” because the government has never granted them the jurisdiction to prosecute. He told of corruption cases being brought to the commission all the time that they have no legal mandate to investigate. (When asked the number of cases, Chol said he could not comment.)
He further stated, “Since 2005, the government of Southern Sudan has never had an audit on the use of its finances… since 2007, we have not even had an auditor general… It is good that the act [the Anti-Corruption Bill] has been passed by parliament, but we also need the auditor general to be appointed.”
Recently, a political cartoon appeared in the paper portraying many small men (GoSS) all pulling on ropes tied to the neck of a large bull (corruption). They were apparently trying to “choke corruption.” The DJ referred to that cartoon and asked Chol if he thought his commission could kill corruption.
Chol responded, “Corruption, in fact, is all over the world. There is nowhere it has been killed totally, even in America and Europe, but our commission is meant to reduce it to the extent possible… where there is much corruption, the development cannot continue… the money is not available for jobs or medications, like we heard from our caller about the case of the hospital in Aweil.”
He wisely added, “The fight against corruption is to be fought everywhere by everyone. If you see corruption anywhere, by your husband or your family even, you must report it. If you fold your hands and stand by, it will never end.”
Chol’s closing statements? “If there is no political will on the part of the members of the government, don’t expect there to be any change, because without their support we cannot do anything. We [the anti-corruption commission] cannot do miracles.”
So, fight on, people of Southern Sudan, but if you report corruption to the Anti-Corruption Commission, don’t expect anything to change.