South Sudan's Kiir vows corruption crackdown
Juba - President Salva Kiir of the newly-independent South Sudan has announced "five critical steps" for a crackdown on corruption, seen as one of the major challenges to fledgling state.
In an open letter published on Tuesday, Kiir said new measures, including regulation of land sales and publication of government officials' finances, would lead to greater transparency and accountability.
Kiir has made tackling graft one of his key priorities, and the announcement appears to come at a significant moment, shortly before his meeting with US President Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly.
"This a critical point in our history, a moment of high expectations from our people for services and high standards of good governance and stewardship from our friends, partners and donors," Kiir said.
He pledged new laws regulating land and government contracts, announced the appointment of high-ranking African officials to bolster the banking and finance sector and promised to strengthen the anti-corruption commission.
The government will also investigate diverted funds, seeking help from Britain, the United States, Switzerland and Australia to recover stolen cash from the state coffers.
The UN deputy resident and humanitarian co-ordinator for South Sudan, Lise Grande, said that following Kiir's independence day speech and address to the joint houses of parliament on tackling corruption, his latest statement shows "momentum is building".
"He said that this was going to be a key part of his strategy, and here he has outlined five specific strategies. He's doing it and it's welcome. It's bold, it's decisive, and it's important," Grande said.
Kiir also promised prosecutions and a published enquiry for a subsidised grain corruption scandal dating back to 2008, and said other government contracts on large infrastructure projects would be investigated.
South Sudan formally proclaimed independence from the north on July 9, after decades of civil war that left the resource-rich country in ruins, and the challenges it faces are daunting.
"The government has essentially been formed from scratch" since the 2005 peace agreement that ended the conflict, and has lacked an anti-corruption strategy, Grande said.