Corruption stunts growth of new nation

Published June 1, 2008

The cover of the pamphlet makes you want to look away: a naked child – perhaps a teenager – holds a younger child whose skin is stretched taut over his bones. The smaller child is obviously starving, his eyes downcast. “Corruption Cripples Development!” reads the tagline under the photo.

It is an image that a Western aid agency would never consider using in its communications, but this is how the nascent government is trying to combat the rampant corruption in post-war south Sudan: by connecting corrupt practices directly with the suffering of Sudanese people.

The government considers corruption one of the major obstacles to both peace and good government. Many people in south Sudan complain that the benefits of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in 2005 by the Khartoum-based government in the north and the 10 states of south Sudan, have not trickled down to Sudanese at the grassroots level, due in part to corruption. Citizens and members of the government of south Sudan believe the north is cheated them out of revenues for their natural resources, especially oil.

But the corruption is homegrown, too.

Stories abound of “phantom” civil servants who collect government salaries but do not work and teachers who are unpaid for months at a time. One government ministry reportedly tried to solve the problem by locking the office doors and paying only those staff who were present and accounted for on a particular day.

“It is not a good feeling for those who work in our schools,” says a school administrator at Wulu, south Sudan. “The people in the counties say it is the state’s fault, the state says it is GoSS (the Government of South Sudan), GoSS blames Khartoum. I don’t know if these (teachers) will want to continue.”

In response the government created the Southern Sudan Anti-Corruption Commission, which reminds citizens that corruption is their “common enemy” and is damaging to the growth of their nation. The commission encourages reporting of corrupt practices and says it is the role of every citizen to talk “about the evils of corruption in our society and adherence to moral, ethical codes of conduct and integrity in all public offices.”


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