ASSESSING THE VERACITY OF THE SENTRY REPORT OF MAY 2017 ENTITLED: MAKING A FORTUNE WHILE MAKING A FAMINE: THE ILLUSTRATIVE CASE OF A SOUTH SUDANESE GENERAL, MALEK RUBEN
Once the report is one sided, it is ill-intended.
By Daniel Juol,
June 04, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —— This Sentry report of May, 2017 is about how the studies of the business activities and how such business activities contributed to famine in South Sudan, taking General Malek Ruben as the case study. In this report The Sentry Team summarized the Content of the report in the following words—
“While South Sudanese people are starving by the tens of thousands and war rages on, a small group of senior military officers have gotten rich. This brief from The Sentry presents the case of one influential general whose military strategies helped create the famine. This general’s case illustrates how the deliberate absence of the rule of law provides the potential for immense financial benefits for the leaders of South Sudan’s regime and how current incentives favor extreme violence and grand corruption over peace and good governance.
A recent U.N.-declared famine in South Sudan’s Unity state has left 100,000 people at immediate risk of dying of starvation.1 All told, an estimated 7.5 million people in South Sudan—more than half the country’s population—urgently needs assistance. The cause of this famine is not a mystery.
Government and rebel forces have used specific tactics to produce mass displacement and famine in South Sudan, particularly through the massive cattle raids undertaken by government-backed forces, attacks on agricultural areas, and the seeding of intercommunal violence beyond clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups. This general’s case illustrates how the deliberate absence of the rule of law provides the potential for immense financial benefits for the leaders of South Sudan’s regime and how current incentives favor extreme violence and grand corruption over peace and good governance”.
As seen above, the report states correct facts of famine, starvation, violence and inter communal violence which are currently happening in South Sudan but assigned them wrong cause. Taking Malek and his business activities without clear connection with these problems shows that the Sentry Report has identified correct facts but assigned the wrong cause to explain the occurrence of these facts. In fact, the Government and rebel forces that have been using specific tactics to produce mass displacement and famine in South Sudan, particularly through the massive cattle raids undertaken by government-backed forces, attacks on agricultural areas, and the seeding of intercommunal violence beyond clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups are the ones responsible for the current violence in the unity state.
Thus, this assessment is carried out to ascertain the veracity of this report in order to confirm whether the facts reported support the assertion of the Sentry Team that General Malek Ruben Riak created violence and famine in unity state.
To begin with, the report tries to connect Malek with violence and famine in Unity State by identifying that Lt. Gen. Malek Reuben Riak played a central role in weapons procurement for the national army—for the first several years of the civil war, until March 2016, when he became Deputy Chief of Staff of the SPLA for Training. In addition, the report added that Lt. Gen. Malek Reuben Riak is one of the senior generals that the U.N. panel has identified as responsible for the violence in Unity state that directly led to the famine.
In supporting the above accusations and in attempt to connect General Malek with violence and famine, the Report carried out the close examination of his (Malek) business activities and without establishing the clear link of General Malek’s business activities with famine and violence concluded that General Malek was responsible for famine and violence. This is not true due to the following reasons—
Firstly, General Malek Ruben has never physically commanded any forces in Unity State since the war broke out in South Sudan in 2013 either directly or indirectly. This is explained by the fact though General Malek was promoted to the position of the Deputy of Chief of General Staff when General James Hoth Mai was appointed the Chief of General Staff and held the same position until May 2017, he had never procured weapons nor commanded forces Unity State from 2013 to date.
Though he was appointed to be in charge of logistics and procurement but in practice he had never performed such a duty. This is because his powers were illegally assumed by the former Major General Mach Paul who played a role of procurement of military hardware without his permission or consent. Therefore, the accusations against the SPLA that a $42.8 million was spent on procuring Mi-24 attack helicopters from Ukraine was done by Mach Paul without the knowledge of General Malek Ruben.
It was because of illegal assumption of General Malek’s powers by Mach Paul that later caused the conflict between General Malek Ruben and him. This was because Mach Paul took the role of procurement without authorization from General Malek who was in charge of logistics and procurement issues. Such illegal assumption of his duties prompted General Malek to mmake a complain to President Kiir complaining that he was going to fight with General Mach unless he stopped from interfering with his duties but when President Kiir failed to give any solution to such a complaint, then, General Malek remained with no option but to physically confront General Mach Paul in front of other Senior SPLA Officers.
It was due to the conflict between the two Generals as stated above, which is alleged to have been one of motivations behind the attack on General Malek in his own house. In that attack, one of the SPLA and police officers were killed. In short, Malek was not responsible for the procurement of weapons from Ukraine but Mach Paul who signed the contracts that was signed under pseudo name of Uganda to procure weapon from Ukraine was the one.
Hence, looking at the above explanation in regard to the procurement of weapons, it is true to conclude that General Mach Paul but not General Malek, who procured the current tanks, guns and other weapons. Thus, accusing General Malek Ruben of being responsible for the procurement of weapons that are used being in causing violence that has now led to the famine in the Unity State is wrong. This report shows that the researchers appear to have conducted the research with fixed idea of who is to blame for the violence and famine in the Unity State, which shows that they are bias and therefore unfair. This unfairness is shown by the fact that they have used wrong evidence to connect General Malek to violent and famine currently the people in the Unity State. For these reasons, it must be concluded on this point that the procurement of all those weapons which the report is using now as evidence to connect General Malek Ruben with the violence and famine in the Unity State is baseless since it is based on hearsay evidence.
Second to it and as I have stated in the above paragraph, the report is based on hearsay and is also bias. For instance, in page 2 of the Report in paragraph 3, the report stated that “many of these senior officials do not appear to conceal their fortunes from other insiders, as they often do business together and own homes close to one another outside South Sudan.” This statement shows that the research was based on the information from the internal informant (the insiders).
As I have stated in the above paragraph, an insider means “a person within a group or organization, especially someone privy to information unavailable to others”. Relying on the information provided by the insiders within the SPLA leadership is suspect. This is because as I have already discussed above, General Malek is not in good term with some of the active and former generals in the SPLA.
If those who provided the information which this report is based are insiders from within the army or former army General then it is misleading information which should never be relied on for any decision making. This is because even if the facts are correct but the evidence collected to be used in connecting General Malek with famine and violence is one of the weakest evidence that will never be relied on by any reasonable person.
Thirdly, the Report accused Lt. Gen. Malek Reuben Riak in page 2 that a “close examination of his business activities helps illustrate the warped incentives that motivate senior military officials in South Sudan. Looking at this illustrative example of just a slice of corrupt economic activity by just one of the leading generals demonstrates how deeply the incentives favor violence and instability over peace and democratic governance”. This statement does not support the accusation that General Malek is corrupt. Why? Because being engaged in business while holding the office alone without more does not support the allegations of corruption unless it is proved that it is the money of the government that is being used for personal trade.
As I have stated above doing business while holding the office is not sufficient to accuse the person of corruption and in case of General Malek such an accusation is not true. This is because Malek has is one of the senior Generals in the SPLA and like other Senior Generals has wealth which he acquired during the war and during the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
In fact, General Malek Ruben is an Engineer by profession specializing in dealin weapons, and in particular, in the mining and demining section of the SPLA. This section was given a lot of money during the war and even now. Since he was in charge of that section until when he was promoted and appointed to the position in which he currently holds, then, he might have acquired his present wealth from there.
In addition, many senior Army officers who were working with Garang of which he was one of them (though he was not as senior as we understand today but because he was working at strategic section of the SPLA of mine and demining) then he might have benefited from donations that were received by the SPLA from international community in its support. These donations had never been accounted for and if Malek benefited from them, as I know he did, then with his skills and planning he might have invested to generate more wealth which is the legitimate way of making more wealth.
Moreover and in relation to the above, the fact that General Malek Ruben as it has been reported in this Report is found to have moved $3.03 million through a U.S. dollar-denominated account at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB)—between January 2012 and early 2016 is not sufficient enough to implicate General Malek in corruption scandals in the SPLA as alleged by the Report unless there is enough evidence to show that not only has General Malek had $3.03 million in his dollar account with KCB but also that this money was stolen from the SPLA as shown by so and so evidence. Without producing strong evidence to show to that effect that General Malek has stolen the money from the SPLA then the allegations are considered as mere allegations, which are baseless.
As I have already explained above, General Malek might have started investment before the independence of South Sudan and out of that got a lot of money before being appointed in the present post, which shows that this money was not acquired from corruption in the SPLA from 2013 to date but it was acquired and invested before 2013. This shows that the accusations against general Malek that he has stolen money from the SPLA after having been appointed into the present post and left the people in famine, hunger and starvation is baseless.
In addition, the Sentry Report states, “ Financial transactions reviewed by The Sentry and discussed in its September 2016 report showed millions of dollars passing through Lt. Gen. Reuben Riak’s personal bank account at KCB, including more than $700,000 in cash deposits and large payments from several international construction companies operating in South Sudan. These payments came from companies backed by Chinese, Lebanese, and Turkish investors. These include hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments and cash deposits into the account since the war in South Sudan began in December 2013. In that same period, over $1.16 million was withdrawn from Lt. Gen. Reuben Riak’s account, in his own name or as “cash.” Lt. Gen.Reuben Riak also has acquired stakes in numerous companies incorporated in South Sudan, including engineering and energy companies.” It appears from what I have just quoted above that Sentry is using deposit during the war (2013-2017) as evidence of corruption against General Malek in the SPLA.
Such an argument is full of fallacies as it assumes that in the present time of war in South Sudan, there is no any other business conducted by individuals with the outsiders which is a wrong assumption. This is because even now the private businesses are still being transacted within South Sudan and between South Sudan and outside despite the fact that the transfer of dollars is highly restricted. However, if someone like General Malek who already has dollar account then he has right to do business freely since what is restricted is buying of dollars from the Central Bank of South Sudan.
Fourthly, the Report uses the participation of the family of General Malek Ruben in business to show that he is corrupt, which is an error and wrong argument. This is because in law, a person has right to open a company which is controlled by him or her and his or her family exclusively. The Report finds the documents that show that Lt. Gen. Reuben Riak’s daughter, Christine Malek Reuben, has held a 20 percent stake in Euro-Afro Trade and Consult Ltd. alongside Anok Kiir (the daughter of the president) and an Egyptian businessman. Another document lists Christine Malek Reuben as a shareholder in Jubilee Bank, alongside Gen. James Hoth Mai’s daughter, Titchiang Hoth Mai, who was only 15 years old at the time of the bank’s incorporation.
The Report further shows that there are at least some indications that the family members of these senior generals may be operating on behalf of the generals themselves. For example, neither the signature of Titchiang Hoth Mai nor that of Christine Malek Reuben appears on corporate documents for Jubilee Bank. Instead, next to their names are what appear, based on comparisons with other documents reviewed by The Sentry, to be the signatures of their fathers, Lt. Gen. Reuben Riak and Gen. Hoth Mai.30 Similarly, corporate filings indicate that a person named “Emmanuel Gum Malek” owns a 50 percent stake in a company called Eastern Mountain Ltd. alongside a Kenyan citizen named Nelly Akal Abonyo. However, next to Emmanuel Gum Malek’s name is what appears, based on comparisons with other documents reviewed by The Sentry, to be Lt. Gen. Reuben Riak’s signature.31 Furthermore, financial records reviewed by The Sentry state that $8,000 was transferred from Eastern Mountain Ltd. to Lt. Gen. Reuben Riak’s personal bank account at KCB.
The finding which shows that since the Children of Malek are also involved in business then Malek has stolen the money of the SPLA or government to establish business in which he employs his children is wrong. This is because of two reasons— first of all the report has not established the date as to when these businesses of which the children of Malek are involved were stated. If they were stated after 2013 then second to that the report must also go on to establish the source of money to determine whether this money was got from the SPLA directly. Failure to provide these two reasons shows that the fact that the Children of Malek are involved in the management of business is not enough to implicate Malek in corruption.
Fifthly and finally, the Report stated that though General Malek has stolen the money from the SPLA, he shows not to hide his wealth from his colleagues, instead of using this as evidence, the Sentry Team should have inferred from the innocence of General Malek. This is because if General Malek were a thief like any other thief, he would have never stolen money from the same house and uses it in the same house. Instead The Sentry Report should have found another explanation to explain away this fact which is against them. This is because it supports the argument above that General Malek might have acquired his wealth before he was appointed as an army General. Hence, using this disposition of General Malek to show that he is corrupt was not thought well.
He does not hide his businesses from his other fellow generals. They profit from insider deals, move their fortunes through large international banks, and often use their children to keep their names off of company records. Many of these senior officials do not appear to conceal their fortunes from other insiders, as they often do business together and own homes close to one another outside South Sudan
A thief will never steal and after stealing shows to everybody what he or she stole. The Sentry report investigates one side of the government or SPLA to prove the corruption of the SPLA officers how independent is such a source is not considered by the Sentry team. For instance Sentry Team is relying on insiders who are also top generals in the army yet all those generals have acquired immense wealth through the SPLA. In my opinion the insiders Sentry used as source of evidence to prove against other SPLA officers are not independent because they are also guilty of corruption.
There must be independent source of evident to corroborate the information given by the insiders. As we all know we all know almost all the houses of the top generals in the SPLA both those still active and those who have retired and in fact general Malek does not have resources which some of these who might be insiders have.
What I have observed about the Sentry Report is that it states clear facts but support them with falsehood. For instance, it reported that “…as much of the country starves some of these same military officers appear to have been getting rich”. Then, the report further goes on to state and I quote, “Government and rebel forces have used specific tactics to produce mass displacement and famine in South Sudan, particularly through the massive cattle raids undertaken by government-backed forces, attacks on agricultural areas, and the seeding of intercommunal violence beyond clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups.”
The author, Daniel Juol, can be reached at email@example.com