President of South Sudan accuses officials of industrial-scale corruption

Salva Kiir Mayardi, the president of South Sudan, has accused former government officials of embezzling millions of dollars that were to have been spent on infrastructure projects.

The president was speaking at a ceremony to begin the $158m renovation of Juba International Airport near the country’s capital. The airport was meant to have been completed before South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, but work was halted for reasons that were, at the time, unclear.

Now Kiir Mayardit has blamed the delays on theft by former government authorities. He said: "This Juba airport has taken our money since 2005 and the people who did that are now the ones shouting outside after having squandered this money into their pockets. They are the ones who are accusing the government of corruption. But they used to bring the companies and ask for 30% or 40% down payments. All this money has disappeared." 

The president did not name the people he suspected of corruption, however his relations with many former members of his government are hostile. South Sudan is presently in the grip of a civil war that broke out after he sacked vice-president Riek Machar and accused him of plotting a coup. 

Machar then headed a rebellion, which is based on ethnic struggle between Kiir Mayardi’s Dinka community and Machar’s Nuers. About a million people are internally displaced and many are in receipt of airdropped food. 

China Harbour Company (CHC) will carry out the work on the airport. The project is being funded by China’s Export and Import Bank. 

Li Yi, vice-president of CHC, also spoke at the ceremony to begin work at Juba airport. He promised that the company would try its best to mobilise the resources needed to make sure that the project was carried out efficiently.

He said: "We would like to reassure the government of the Republic of South Sudan and its people that we will offer first-class technique, first-class quality and first-class credit, making our own contribution to further the bilateral co-operation between our two countries."

The Juba airport renovation will extend the runway from 2,400m to 3,100m, expand the immigration offices, and add duty-free shops and extra parking space. 

The aim of the expansion is to raise the quality of the airport to meet international standards and to help it accommodate larger planes. Construction is due to take 30 months to complete.

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