JUBA – South Sudan’s customs officers have been accused of helping gold and timber smugglers by accepting bribes.
Speaking during a parliamentary session on the budget for the fiscal year 2022-2023 on Thursday, Josephine Napwon, minister of environment and forestry said smuggling of gold and timber to neighboring countries of Uganda and Congo has become so rampant.
“There is too much smuggling of our natural resource and one of it is our gold, there are people benefiting from our gold,” Napwon said.
Napwon said South Sudan is losing a lot of money through the smuggled timber, which goes to Congo and Uganda without being taxed.
“The logging as well is going out of our hands, especially at our border points. If you go far too Western Equatoria, there are a lot of trucks going via Congo through Nimule,” said Napwon.
She claimed that officials at the border points are busy collecting bribes from timber dealers without proper licenses due to hunger.
“This is because there are too many bribes and it is because our people are very hungry and we need to do something about it,” she said.
In November 2019, the United Nations in its report accuses South Sudanese rebel and government military commanders of illegally logging and selling teak and mahogany trees in the former Central Equatoria and the Eastern Equatoria States.
In a 33-page, the U.N. Panel of Experts said they received “credible information” indicating Major General Moses Lokujo of SPLA-IO Division 2B was “directly involved in the taxation of teak and mahogany” being illegally harvested in Liwolo, Kariwa, Kendire, Kala, Ajio, Lora Manglotore, Bori, Lowili and Katire payams, all of which are under the control of opposition forces.
The report also said Lokujo has been active in transporting logs across South Sudan’s borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.