South Sudan officials diverted millions of dollars of state funds that are badly needed by civilians as the country staggers away from civil war, a United Nations commission said on Thursday.
The commission also accused rival fighters of “deliberately starving” people for strategic gain.
“Today in South Sudan, civilians are deliberately starved, systematically surveilled and silenced, arbitrarily arrested and detained and denied meaningful access to justice,” the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said in a report.
The bleak report comes two days before a crucial deadline for the nation’s rival leaders to join forces in a coalition government.
That deadline has been extended twice in the past year, much to the impatience of the United States and others, but a key agreement appears to have been reached in recent days on the number of states under the new government.
Throughout South Sudan’s five-year civil war and since the latest peace deal was signed in September 2018, various watchdog groups have accused government officials of profiting from the conflict and siphoning off massive amounts of money meant for the benefit of the country and its 12.5 million people.
“Corruption has made several officials extremely wealthy at the expense of millions of starving civilians,” the report said. “Corruption has been so lucrative that it has infected every sector of the economy and every state institution.”
The graft has been carried out while the civil war, which erupted two years after independence from Sudan in 2011, killed nearly 400,000 people and sent more than two million fleeing the country.
The three-member commission said it has grounds to believe there had been a “steady diversion” of millions of dollars of revenue not linked to South Sudan’s oil sector into the National Revenue Authority.
The authority by law is meant to retain only two percent of revenue collected, with the rest going to the government’s consolidated account, but the new report claims it has credible evidence that in September the authority kept 56 percent of non-oil revenue.
In October and November, the authority retained almost 80 percent, the report added.
There was no immediate comment from South Sudan’s government.
The UN commission said such looting occurred as roughly half of South Sudan’s people, or six million civilians, were going hungry.