Leave Ezekiel Lul Gatkuoth Alone and Takes the Oil Ministry

By Dak Buoth

3rd July 2019,

South Sudan Petroleum Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth speaking BBC Hardtalk (Photo Credit BBC)

South Sudan Petroleum Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth speaking BBC Hardtalk (Photo Credit BBC)

July 7th, 2019(Nyamilepedia) — South Sudan President’s core mandate under the Peace Agreement (R-ARCISS) and the constitution is to steer the country toward peace and tranquility, but the agenda he is pursuing at the moment are likely going to hinder the peace we’re longing for, and this is a point of concern to me. The World is aware and annoy that the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement signed on 12th September 2018 had stalled so be the lives of the impoverished South Sudanese citizenry.

The President must channel his focus on the relevance issues that are before him. As at now his core mandate includes inter alia: rallying around the peace agreement by lobbying for fund to implement the peace agreement in totality so as to meets the 6 month’s timeline; retraining and reintegrating of the armed forces as well as assembling them in their respective cantonments far away from the civilian residential sites; and to resolve the states dispute and so on and so forth. He has no options but to grapple with these fundamental challenges if at all he needs our loyalty and public confidence.

I’m equally aware that corruption is menace that have derailed our growth and development in South Sudan, and it must be fought frontally and by all means at our disposals. Similarly, we ought to know that fighting corruption is not the primary responsibility of the President, it only requires his attention and blessings. However, the selective war against individuals is not a war on corruption but political war. If individual state officers are targeted by virtue of the fact that they are not President’s political darlings then we are permanently losing ground on the fight against corruption. More often than not, the real war on corruption is devoid of malice.

This brings me to the trending case of the immediate former Oil and Petroleum Minister Ambassador Ezekiel Lul Gatkuoth. On 12th June 2019, President Salva Kiir unexpectedly brought down Ambassador Lul Gatkuoth from the lucrative Oil and Petroleum ministry docket while he was on mission abroad in Nigeria. As we all know, the President did not give any reason for his removal, and nobody can complain because the President has the prerogative to appoint and relieve any member of the executive arm of government.

However, what troubled me are the motives behind what they are doing to him now in the pretext of fighting corruption. The manner in which Lul Gatkuoth was removed and the timing of the formation of the investigation committee are aimed at arriving at one thing, humiliation. 

The so call investigation against Ambassador Ezekiel Lul Gatkuoth is nothing but a continuation of the onslaught against members of the Nuer community within and outside the government. And this is not helpful at all, and we must say it in the open without fear of contradiction.

A day after Lul’s removal, he jetted back to Juba to handover to the new minister, Hon Daniel Awou Chuong. On 26th June, 2019 the President appointed and announced 7-member investigation committee comprising members of the cabinet, some of whom were his subordinate in the ministry he led. The other day i heard the President’s spokesman Ateny Wek on eye radio saying ‘‘that this committee will investigate the mechanisms that was used on how the ministry of oil and petroleum arrived at allocating crude oil and also ascertain the number of the pre-sale agreement past and present’’.

In view of the above, the Readers can ask these two questions: first: is there precedent saying that after any minister is remove, he or she should be investigated? Secondly: did someone made an allegation against Lul Gatkuoth on his performances at the time he was still minister of Oil and Petroleum? I guessed not. As we all knew, there were so many officials who had served in that ministry before, and no day did the President formed a committee to investigate their conducts just for sake of it. Secondly nobody had presented formal complain that prompted the President to form an investigation against Lul Gatkuoth. 

Ezekiel Lul has served in that ministry for about three years now, and the offense I know he committed was when he told the BBC television interview that South Sudan economy was booming when he knew there was looming hunger in all corners of South Sudan. What he said was deliberate misrepresentation of the state of South Sudan. Thus, I’m not trying to vindicate him of any wrongdoing. I have only heard of the guy but I don’t know him. Some claims he is a stingy but that isn’t an issue but his character. What I’m up to is that we must not humiliate him for no good reasons owing to the fact that he was pioneer South Sudan Ambassador to United States.

I presumed the President has been misadvised by the nemesis of the former minister to find faults which can be used to soil his name in the public dormant. The bible in the book of Mathew 7:3 asked this question: why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 

It is undeniable that corruption is an enemy which must be fought along with those in the SPLM who are glorifying it. The proponents of corruption are the number one enemies of South Sudan. On the same note, I want to reiterate here and now that fighting corruption is not the primary responsibility of the President in South Sudan. There is constitutional body charged with this responsibility. In any case, what we needed from Presidency in the fight against corruption is political-will. Usually, the President and his surrogates Make mistakes because they do not act within their work descriptions as enshrined in the constitution. We cannot thrive in this confused work environment.

It is not normal to investigate someone when nobody has complained about his or her conducts and performances. Even if someone had complained or accused Lul Gatkuoth of misconduct, it’s the South Sudan Anti- corruption commission that should handle this case not the Presidency. And if this Anti- corruption commission is toothless as we know, he should disband it forthwith. Our daily performances must be guided by the constitution. We aspired for South Sudan to be a human rights state not Refugee State. It’s heartbreaking to sentenced youth leaders like Biar Ajak for exercising their freedom of expression. The latter’s detention is perfect betrayal that will continue to haunt our political conscience as a revolutionary society.

On lul case, investigation is legal process, and the people tasked to investigate must assumed the person is innocent until the contrary is proven. Unfortunately, I understood, the investigation committee has gone as far as confiscating his Passport, Laptops, Phones and Flash Discs. Rumors are that he is now under surveillance in Juba. Why are they doing these when the person is not resisting the search? These indications demonstrate they are out to settle political scores.

The President has ordered the said investigation committee to bring their report within 14 days; when the report is produced in fortnight time, how long does it take the president to respond? Last year the President formed tribunal to adjudicate on the case of Stephen Buay Rolnyang who was accused and charged for treason. The tribunal had completed their work and submitted it to the President. Luckily, I learned the tribunal found him innocent. So why is the president taking long to act on the report? He should be reminded of the legal maxim that ‘justice delay is justice denied’’. The President should just order the immediate release of Stephen Buay and disband this investigation committee forthwith. It is very unfortunate to establish investigation committee to investigate Lul Gatkuoth on mere suspicion and wishful thinking. This is waste of oil money.

The President should stick on his relevance duties, and mindful that South Sudan has lagged behind in all aspects due to our bad human rights record and warlike attitude. Only a few are benefiting from this perennial conflict; vast majority are languishing in abject poverty due to bad deeds.

The mighty youth of South Sudan need peace of mind and freedom with a view to work and make their lives better like their colleagues in other countries. President must raise to the popular call for change because it’s a change whose time has come. We lived by mistakes; to correct and challenge each other and that is the way to go in the South Sudan We want.

The Writer is the Chairman of the Liech Community Association in Kenya, the views expressed here are his own


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One comment

  • John

    What a commentary, if at all the Jeng Mafia government in Juba naBari can listen to these smart ideas; instead of running the country as a property of one tribe!

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