By Eye Radio
The Chief of Defense Forces has told soldiers that sacrifice is more important than salary, a message that has attracted criticism from some members of the general public.
A foot soldier receives roughly 1,800 pounds or $6 per month. However, such an amount is not paid regularly.
With the economic crisis and high market prices, observers say this amount cannot cover basic needs of a soldier and his wife and children.
Speaking to Eye Radio at the Presidential Palace in Juba on Independence Day, General Gabriel Jok Riak said:
“When you become a soldier, it means you must be the first to sacrifice for your nation and sacrifice means a lot. And it’s diverse in many forms. No salary is one of them.”
Gen Jok is one of the political and military leaders in South Sudan on the UN Security Council sanction list for their roles in the conflict.
As commander of the then SPLA Sector One, Jok was sanctioned by the UN in 2015 for perpetuating violence and breaching ceasefire agreements in the defunct Unity State.
He was also named by the Sentry as one of the Profiteers of the violence.
Bank records reviewed by The Sentry indicate that Gen. Jok Riak received large financial transfers totaling at least $367,000 to his personal bank account at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) from February to December 2014 alone—sums that dwarf his official annual salary of about $35,000.92, wrote the Sentry in September 2016.
“When you are patriotic, it means you have sacrificed everything including your children and your life,” he said.
“But we are not denying them their rights…. The country has been rocked by a lot of issues and problems: political, economic and security.”
Where is this money going?
Some members of the public have expressed disappointment in the army chief for telling soldiers to choose sacrifice over salary.
“It’s very difficult to be a soldier, defending your country while you are hungry, your child is hungry, your wife is hungry, your child has no clothes, no school and health service. And after that, they ask you to sacrifice,” wondered Sibu Kida, from Aweil.
They should provide the salary of a soldier so that he/she can be motivated.”
Another Eye Radio listener from Lologo protested, saying “My family should not go hungry and without medical care in the name of serving the country.”
Some soldiers also commented on the statement.
“I’m a soldier; I sacrificed when I knew the country had no money to pay me. Those days of guerilla, the 21 years of struggle without salary, are gone,” said one Abraham from Bor.
“Today I know my salary is being paid but some people are sitting on it and you still want me to sacrifice my family. I will not do that again.”
According to the Ministry of Petroleum, South Sudan produces 175,000 barrels per day.
At the current rate, the government gets $5.5m per day or more than $165m per month.
“We have oil in this country, where is this money going?” Asked Baden, Juba resident.
“What he said was in the past when they’d tell soldiers to be strong and patient, because we did not have money at that time during the liberation struggle.
“Now you see them [generals] changing V-8s. Why is General Riak saying this? This is not right. He should have not said this.”