The Positive Effects of South Sudan’s Oil Shutdown

South Sudan
South Sudan shut down its oil production last year

The fallout from South Sudan’s oil production shutdown, now in its fifth month, is yielding some positive results as Africa’s newest country approaches the first anniversary of its independence on 9 July.

Despite earlier rumours of discontent in the ranks of both the military and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the armed conflict with Khartoum, as well as the need for economic austerity, seems to have produced an upswell of patriotism.

Few newly independent countries have had such a harrowing first year.

As Khartoum’s Antonovs rain bombs on South Sudan’s citizens returning home from the north, more than half the population contends with a looming famine.

Food and fuel supplies are diminishing almost by the day.

It says something about the desire for freedom that the South Sudanese are facing it all with the kind of stoicism that only a lifetime of war and enslavement can engender.

With a consensus that belts needed to be tightened, President Salva Kiir has turned his guns on a festering domestic problem: corruption.

In Juba, it is an open secret that the big men have been eating well.

But with no oil revenues coming in and international financial institutions giving Juba only a few months before the republic runs out of cash, President Kiir has taken drastic measures.

At the beginning of June, he announced that $4bn was missing from the books. (A previous report by auditor-general Stephen Wondu had said that in 2005 $100m went missing from the oil account.)

The president drew up a list of 75 government officials who needed to account for their wealth and announced an amnesty for those who would voluntarily come forward.

Few thought the measure was likely to achieve results.

Within a week, however, $60m had been returned, and more is expected. Some officials have even come forward to declare they were on the list.

Whether there will be a backlash against these and the more notorious looters remains to be seen