William and Mary Law School

Corruption (Or Business As Usual)

In South Sudan the military and the government are nearly synonymous. Members of the SPLA, which began as a guerilla movement, now fill the highest positions of power in the new nation. Not only does this scenario epitomize victors’ justice, but it also fails to establish a viable foundation to build an autonomous country. Rebel leaders do not assume political and governmental competencies with the raising of a flag. Expertise in fighting does not always translate to managing a country replete with conflict, nor does this form of expertise lend itself to establishing peace. On the contrary, post-conflict stability is often not in the best interest of the new leaders. This is the case because, as is typical in underdeveloped, African nations, the warring, usually rebel, military faction that effectuates independence is reorganized to represent a legitimate government body. The leader of the rebel organization becomes the President and commander-in-chief, and other high-ranking members (now officers as opposed to rebel leaders) are assigned positions of power within the various branches. The remaining members of the rebel militia become the national army. Thus, the military, the government, and the nation’s security are inextricably linked. 

Unfortunately, especially when highly lucrative natural resources are at stake, the continued wealth of now government leaders depends on the perpetuation of corruption. The continuous cycle of acquisition and reacquisition of valuable land and resources does not disappear; it merely takes on a different, technically legal, format. The solution to this form of corruption, however, is elusive due to the homogenous government infrastructure. No branch enjoys true independence and the judicial sector is no exception. The executive and the legislature heavily influence the judiciary, and it is likely that the Supreme Court justices, who were appointed by the President, served under his command as well. This dynamic does not promote impartiality and it is extremely unlikely that the Supreme Court would ever rule against the government. Currently, the government is accused of illegally selling government land, wrongfully exercising eminent domain, and failing to compensate members of communities for government takings. Yet, the salaries of judicial actors depend on the success of these occurrences and they are no position to condemn them.