By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, Sawa Sawa Network
JUBA – South Sudanese communities have been urged to get involved in protecting natural resources in their areas, including forests and minerals, against illegal extractions. The appeal was made on Sawa Sawa Network’s program The Weekly Review that focused on South Sudan natural resources: extraction, the use of revenues from the natural resources, corruption and misappropriation of revenues, illegal extractions, and reforms needed, including in contrast with the progressive provisions of the R-ARCSS that, among others, mandate the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity “to ensure prudent, transparent and accountable management of national wealth and resources to build the nation and promote the welfare of the people.”
Illegal mining is happening in several parts of South Sudan, several sources have repeatedly said. According to a November 2020 Report of the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan, armed units of NAS, the National Security Service, SSPDF and SPLA-IO guarded or controlled access to mining across Central and Eastern Equatoria and that Civil society and United Nations contacts reported to the Panel that armed groups routinely block access to riverbeds and fields where artisanal miners work, allegations Sawa Sawa Network has not been able to verify.
David Mayen Dengdit, the former Press Secretary in the Office of the Vice President Dr. James Wani Igga and former Director for Legislation in the National Legislative Assembly; and Boboya James Edimond, the Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Social Policy and Research, a leading public policy research center that offers national and regional expertise to civil society groups, private sector and government were the panellists who on The Weekly Review.
Edimond, who has more than 15 years of experience working in the international development field and has both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in local governance and human rights, as well as a master’s degree in sustainable international development, argued that civil society and lawyers need to enlighten communities on the theft of their resources and how to protect those resources.
“Communities needs to begin protecting their own resources, communities need to take the upper hand because they know where those resources are, they know who is coming to steal those resources, whether rebel groups or government people. So if that happens I think that should be good news,” he said.
“It’s not only the gold; if you look at the forests, you go to Eastern Equatoria, you go to Western Equatorial, you go to Central Equatoria, the gazetted forest is disappearing by the day and this is benefiting only two or three or five individuals, this is also even creating
climate-related issues in South Sudan.”
On his part, Mayen, who has a Master of Laws (LLM) in Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy agrees with Edimond that “a lot needs to be done in that aspect.” He hinted at the risk of unregulated Artisanal Minning, where miners can become isolated from the central government control, then develop an interest in maintaining that isolation and protecting the same using revenue from the mines to buy weapons and “increase their potency” as armed groups, like happening in other African Countries. Mayen said there is still enough time to save South Sudan, adding that “we are a new country, we must learn from the mistakes of others but we must have the will to learn and change these things otherwise this chaos will sink us deeper and it will be difficult to come out of that.”
On sharing of national revenue between the central government and state governments, Mayen argued that it is the devaluation of South Sudanese Pounds that has weakened the block grants that used to go to the states.
“There is a need to increase the block grants to the states because 80 or 90 percent of the population of South Sudan are in the states and the services the government should give to the people of South Sudan must start with the states instead of everything finishing in Juba. There is need for the government to actually look into this equitable sharing issue in a better way,” he said.
The Transitional Constitution says sharing and allocation of resources and national wealth shall be based on the premise that all states, localities and communities are entitled to equitable development without discrimination.
The R-ARCSS, which has been incorporated into the Transitional Constitution, also says the framework for sharing wealth from the extraction of natural resources should balance the needs of service delivery and reconstruction of the producing States.
Both panellists emphasized the need for reform, transparency and adherence to the rule of law in South Sudan.
The full program can be watched on Sawa Sawa Network YouTube Channel through this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzEHbMMp83Q&t=850s.