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Top gov’t officials, military linked to illegal gold mining in Kapoeta

Author: Staff Writer | Published: Friday, April 3, 2020

Louis Lobong, former governor of gold-rich Eastern Equatoria, reportedly maintains businesses in the mining sector through his wives, son, and associate Lawrence Lual Malong. Source: The Sentry.

A new corruption report has revealed how South Sudan’s gold mining sector has been damaged with corruption involving high-level government officials and military leaders.

Titled Untapped and Unprepared – dirty deals threaten South Sudan’s mining sector, this is the latest in a series of corruption reports naming senior government officials in the country.

President Kiir’s daughter, defense ministry, and a former governor are all linked to the mining sector corruption according to the Sentry’s investigative report released on Thursday.

The report says illegal mining is now underway in Kapoeta, a defunct state in Eastern Equatoria considered gold-rich.

The Sentry alleged that the former governor of the defunct Kapoeta state has ties to numerous mining businesses, as well as the ministry of defense’s involvement in problematic mining licensing deals.

The U.S based Sentry stated that although the government took steps to reform the mining sector in 2012, some government officials, their relatives, and their close associates have nurtured a weak regulatory environment susceptible to exploitation.

It said documents it reviewed reveal that politically exposed persons—both President Salva Kiir’s close associates and lower-level ministers—have held shares in no fewer than 32 South Sudanese companies established to extract minerals.

According to the Sentry, Kiir’s daughter partly owns a company with three active mining licenses.

Vice President James Wani Igga’s son is also said to be a shareholder in a company with three mining licenses.

A businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali, commonly known as Al-Cardinal also reportedly owns the company currently holding the most mining licenses.

The report says state government officials have issued licenses independently of the central government, a probable violation of South Sudan’s Mining Act.

The licenses have purportedly allowed illegal mining to take place on land previously allocated by Juba to other companies.

According to John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry, President Kiir’s daughter, and her associates have mined huge sums of minerals in Central and Eastern Equatoria States, amongst others.

“If South Sudan’s people are to benefit from the country’s mineral wealth, including lifesaving healthcare urgently needed in the face of a global pandemic, financial institutions should take immediate steps to identify and monitor the bank accounts of those in power, their business networks, families, and inner circles,” Prendergast said in a statement.

Sophie Lombardo, an investigator for The Sentry, stated that without swift action, South Sudan’s mining sector may fall into the same traps as the oil sector, which has helped drive war in South Sudan for decades.

For her part, J.R. Mailey, the investigations Director at The Sentry, said individuals linked to criminal activities have received numerous mining licenses.

“Individuals linked to criminal activities have received numerous mining licenses, as have companies with little technical or financial capacity, raising serious questions about how licenses are granted,” Mailey said.

The Sentry recommends among other things the creation of a public register disclosing beneficial ownership.

It also stated there should be a retroactive audit of the mining sector.

When contacted by Eye Radio, the Presidential Press Secretary admitted seeing the report.

However, Ateny Wek Ateny said the Office of the President is yet to comment.

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