Visualizing South Sudan: Kleptocracy as Governance

In 1968, the Polish political scientist Stanislav Andreski wrote, “The essence of kleptocracy is that the functioning of the organs of authority is determined by the mechanisms of supply and demand rather than the laws and regulations.”

Corruption in an institutionalized system of governance is the abuse of public office for private gain. In a kleptocratic system, there is no such thing as public office: all positions are defined by the capabilities they offer to the post-holder to use the rents accruing to that position, for whatever purposes he or she may determine. This purpose may be private enrichment, the advancement of a political or factional cause, pursuing a laudable goal such as sponsoring the arts or education—or even providing the necessities of life to poor people who depend on the office-holder’s largesse.

Sudan became an intensely corrupt government in the 1970s. Mansour Khalid has described how government ministries borrowed funds without even seeking approval from the Ministry of Finance or the Central Bank—so that when the repayments became due, the government had to call in a firm of auditors to go through the ministerial accounts. As the state borrowed $8bn, private businessmen, many of them closely connected to politicians, took even larger amounts abroad. In 1982, Nimeiri set up the Military Economic Board that handed over numerous companies to be run by army officers.

In 1985, the Sudanese political scientists El Wathig Kumeir and Ibrahim Kursany described corruption as the “fifth factor of production” in Sudan.

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The Southern Region is just a footnote in their book:

“Against this background the elite in the South wanted 
to enrich themselves as quickly as possible so as to be on 
a level with their colleagues in the North. This is why they have resorted to corruption as the quickest way of acquiring money.”

Sheraton Hotel



This is the villa at the Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa, which was rented for six nights in January 2012 by President Salva Kiir, when visited the city for the African Union summit. During that stay, he authorized the shut down of oil production. The hotel normally charges $30,000 per night.

There are islands of technical competence, transparency and efficiency in the Government of South Sudan and the SPLA. There are individuals with integrity who insist on following the rules. But those are exceptions, isolated acts of resistance within a system that is inherently kleptocratic.



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