- Leaked audit report shows how family and friends of top government officials benefited from letters of credit scam
by Simona Foltyn,
e all know, intuitively, that there is a powerful link between war and money. When the bullets fly, someone dies; meanwhile, someone else is getting rich.
In South Sudan, we know who is dying. At least 50 000 people, mostly civilians, in nearly four years of fighting. That figure is probably a gross underestimate. Another four million – a third of the population – have been forcibly displaced from their homes, fleeing to squalid refugee camps in neighbouring countries or trying to make a new life in dangerous, unfamiliar conditions somewhere else in the country. Families have been torn asunder, livelihoods abandoned, future generations sacrificed in the near-complete absence of education and basic healthcare.
Now we also know who is getting rich. Simona Foltyn’s painstaking investigation into how South Sudan’s ruling elite have stolen and squandered the country’s reserves of foreign currency is an extraordinary insight into the mechanics of looting on a grand, almost unimaginable scale. Nearly a billion dollars cannot be adequately accounted for, according to a report produced by the state’s own auditor-general – a report which, for obvious reasons, the state has been reluctant to make public.
Implicated in the scam are close friends and family of South Sudan’s most senior officials, including figures aligned to both the government and the rebels. It’s clear there are no good guys leading this war – only the rich and powerful trying to get richer and more powerful, casually risking the lives and futures of South Sudan’s people to do so. – Simon Allison