South Sudan: Government Infuriated by The Sentry Report – Asks for a Retraction and Public Apology
By Prince Kurupati
In a strongly worded response (report) to The Sentry over its publication of findings of a 2-year investigation into the government of South Sudan’s relationship with energy firm Trinity, in which the South Sudan government was implicated for undertaking underhand and corrupt dealings, the South Sudan government has rubbished The Sentry’s report and asked for a public apology.
The 134-page report from the government of South Sudan starts with bold and strong words aimed towards The Sentry. “The Government of South Sudan (‘GoSS’) demands the immediate withdrawal from circulation of The Sentry’s publication “Undercover Activities: Inside the National Security Service’s Profitable Playbook” (the ‘Report’) and the issuance of a public apology to each and every individual, company or entity that has been falsely or misleadingly described in the Report.”
In requesting a retraction and public apology, the South Sudan government said that the findings purported by The Sentry to be a result of the two-year investigation into the operations of Trinity Energy Limited (TEL) and its business relationship with the South Sudan Government aren’t credible and truthful. While the Sentry report “purports to be a fact-based document with commentary that has been widely disseminated internationally,” the South Sudan government says to the contrary, the report contains false and/or misleading allegations that have either been made deliberately or recklessly.”
Having gone through The Sentry’s report, the South Sudan government says that it found the methodology used during the investigation to be heavily flawed, the credibility of the sources used to be highly questionable, overreliance on generic document collections/online sources sold for profit and data breach.
In the Sentry report, the South Sudan government is alleged to have turned a blind eye to the operations of Trinity Energy Limited which the report considers corrupt. The South Sudan government is also accused of awarding a lucrative oil tender to Trinity even though the company had not majored in the oil business before. Even more worrisome, the Sentry report through its main source Mr Kaswaswa who is a former Trinity finance manager alleges “that Trinity Energy spent millions of dollars on ‘facilitation’ and ‘business acquisition’ costs for the Afreximbank deal, including 18.7 million South Sudanese pounds (SSP) ($125,000) in payments to the government committee responsible for approving the deal”.
Refuting the claims made in The Sentry report, the South Sudan government said its report (response) “does not seek to address all the allegations made by The Sentry, many of which are generic, based on anonymous sources or second-hand hearsay, but rather it focuses on those aspects which specifically call into question the actions of named individuals and companies based on information which has been brought to the Government’s attention of serious errors and misrepresentations, in respect of which the GoSS seeks to make a timely response.” Over a dozen individuals and entities who were singled out for engaging or benefiting from corrupt dealings in The Sentry report were allowed to respond, refute the allegations made against them and substantiate the claims in the South Sudan report.
Providing the reasons why The Sentry’s report is highly flawed, the South Sudan government said the non-adherence to one of The Sentry’s key principles of endeavoring to contact “the persons and entities discussed in its reports” to “afford them an opportunity to comment and provide further information” led to the production of a flawed report. Only if the implicated parties were contacted for their responses before the publication of the report would The Sentry have got true and credible information about Trinity and its operations with the South Sudan Government.
Moreover, South Sudan alleges that the main sources for The Sentry report are questionable characters while other sources used are anonymous. Though acknowledging that its standard practice for NGOs and the like to use anonymous sources in their investigative reports more so those of a criminal nature, “the overuse of anonymous sources denies those accused of being able to interrogate the reliability and credibility of the information and thereby challenge what has been alleged, particularly in circumstances where grave recommendations are made, namely the imposition of sanctions against named individuals”.
Apart from the sources, the South Sudan government also stated that there was an overreliance on previous Sentry reports. The use of the “self-referential approach to evidence collection is sub-standard and lacks appropriate investigative rigour, particularly given the methodological flaws identified in the Report,” writes the South Sudan government. Moreover, “the heavy reliance on open-source media reports constitutes nearly 20% of all sources cited. The veracity of such hearsay reports cannot easily be verified and are open to bias. Only two media organisations of those cited are accredited in South Sudan, namely Eye Radio35 and Juba Monitor.”
In its concluding remarks, the South Sudan government said its quite clear that the intended results of The Sentry report were to harm the government. “The intended recipients of the false and/or misleading information published by The Sentry are: international agencies such as the United Nations and its satellite organisations; states such as the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia; collections of states such as the EU, AU and other international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, international and national NGOs, international and national media, and political parties in South Sudan and elsewhere that use such disseminated information to determine or advocate political, economic and/or development strategies for South Sudan and its people. The list of so-called Recommendations at the end of the Report in which The Sentry seeks targeted sanctions, seizure of assets and notice of financial risks amongst many other measures, reveals its purpose of causing economic damage and harm to those falsely and/or misleadingly named, which in turn harms the development of South Sudan.”