South Sudan's President Salva Kiir to fight corruption

Salva Kiir
Image caption President Salva Kiir's letter specifically mentions a high profile corruption scandal involving sorghum

Newly independent South Sudan has announced a series of measures to combat corruption.

President Salva Kiir detailed "five critical steps" in an open letter.

Land sales will be reviewed, public contracts subject to new laws and officials will be expected to publish their assets and earnings.

The announcement comes ahead of a meeting with US President Barack Obama at the UN and follows local and foreign pressure to tackle the problem.

South Sudan only became independent in July, but its leaders ran a semi-autonomous region with a large budget for six years before that.

President Kiir said cases where money has apparently been stolen will be investigated, and the results made public.

He specifically mentioned a high profile scandal involving sorghum, a local staple food.

Senior advisers from other African countries will be appointed to key institutions, and the anti-corruption commission will be strengthened, the president said.

South Sudanese civil society organisations and journalists and Western governments have been vocal in their criticisms of the extent of corruption in South Sudan.

The BBC's James Copnall says the timing of Mr Kiir's announcement suggests that he wants to show his good intentions before his UN meeting with President Obama, which is of great significance for South Sudan.

The south's independence followed decades of conflict with the north in which some 1.5 million people died.

South Sudan is rich in oil, but is one of the least developed countries in the world.

One in seven children dies before the age of five.

Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Map showing Ethnicity of Sudan, source:

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.

Map showing infant Mortality in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.

Map showing percentage of households using improved water and sanitation in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.

Map showing percentage of who complete primary school education in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.

Map showing percentage of households with poor food consumption in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.

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