South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir warned ministers in the first ever cabinet meeting of the Transitional Government of National Unity on Wednesday against the practice of stealing public funds.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said Kiir urged the new cabinet to embrace unity in rooting out corruption.
Kiir “called upon the cabinet to work together to fight corruption so that our country is not considered part of the corrupt world,” Lueth said.
Kiir directed the ministers “to avail necessary social service to our people so that they feel real peace and enjoy the dividends of peace,” he said.
“Our people have not tested the dividends of peace and we are under duty to render services that are really needed by our people,” Lueth said.
Echoing Kiir, First Vice President Riek Machar Teny noted that corruption is a stigma that must be eradicated from all public institutions in the country, Lueth said.
“Corruption is a stigma that we must fight, especially in the area of procurements. Without us fighting corruption, the people of South Sudan and the world will not trust us,” he said.
According to Lueth, the president also demanded the restoration of law and order in the country as well as protection of the country’s sovereignty.
“The president requested that we should restore law and order. And by restoration of law and order, he talked about the sovereignty of the state, because without law and order, we will be giving room for others to interfere with the republic of South Sudan.”
South Sudan’s rival leaders officially started the process of forming a transitional coalition government in late February and on Monday swore in 35 ministers and 10 deputy ministers. The new structure was formed in accordance with a peace deal agreed in September 2018. Under the deal, Kiir has five vice presidents, with former opposition leader Machar as first vice president
South Sudan’s government has been regularly accused of corruption, with citizens calling for accountability over oil money.
Last year, a U.S.-based organization reported that South Sudan’s economy was facing a major financial squeeze with oil revenue drying up and conflicts and corruption minimizing the effectiveness of foreign investments and humanitarian donations.
As the economic situation worsens, the illicit economy has expanded. Key elites and institutions have maintained their funding lines and dominant economic positions while others have sought to diversify their economic holdings to stay abreast of the new reality.
In 2016, a high court in Juba sentenced 16 people to life in prison for playing a role in the theft of more than US$14 million from the office of the president.
This article was originally published on AA.