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The former Governor of the defunct Kapoeta State has refuted claims by the US-based watchdog – The Sentry that accused his office of taking part in illegal gold mining activities in the area.
Louis Lobong Lojore was responding to last month’s report in which his office along with other state and non-state actors allegedly smuggled gold from Kapoeta across the border into Kenya, with the active complicity of local and national governments.
“The Sentry’s intention is clear to defame South Sudanese leaders in order to collide them with the citizens and the international community rendering the country volatile and ungovernable,” Lobong claims in a press statement on Saturday.
The report cited the Office of the President, the National Security Service, the Ministry of Mining and Finance, as well as the Kapoeta state government and its financial and investment institutions among others, as groups that are actively involved in the illicit gold trade.
The report titled “The Criminalization of South Sudan’s Gold Sector: Kleptocracy Networks and the Gold Trade in Kapoeta” detailed how Louis Lobong’s office colluded with several foreign traders and other state officials to mine gold in Kapoeta and smuggle it outside the country.
It also included specifics on how armed actors and corrupt networks are fueling low-intensity conflicts over land, particularly over the ownership of mining sites, and causing the militarization of gold mining in the area.
The Sentry further alleged that that poor oversight and conflicts over the control of resources between the Kapoeta government and the national government in Juba are enriching opportunistic actors both inside and outside South Sudan.
Despite the claims by The Sentry, Lobong insists that he is “a historical leader of the SPLM party with immense integrity.”
“We would like to state to the world, the people of South Sudan, Eastern Equatoria and the family and friends of the Lojore family that the Lojore family has never committed any wrongdoing and as such, we are ready to pursue this case against Sentry before the court of public opinion and the court of justice to clear our family name,” Lobong added.
Eastern Equatoria, is one of the regions in the country that contains some of the most important and best-known sites for artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
However, the 2012 Mining Act criminalizes black market gold sales but despite this legal framework, South Sudan’s gold remains ungoverned and poorly regulated.
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