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South Sudan’s vice president responds to report over misuse of aid

In an interview airing on Monday’s PBS NewsHour, South Sudan Vice President Taban Deng Gai responded to a report that the country’s top leaders were profiting off the five-year conflict by saying it’s under investigation, but the report might be false.

Human rights group The Sentry this month released the results of a two-year investigation that found South Sudanese politicians were spending international aid on mansions and fancy cars, and giving expensive contracts to family members.

“They say that my president, for example, they accuse him of having a house in one of the suburbs of Nairobi city. I don’t think a crime for a president — a sitting president for more than 10 years” to have a house there, Deng told PBS NewsHour Weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan. “I don’t think my president has multiple houses in Australia,” he added.

“Corruption is a real problem in South Sudan. We have to stop it. Yes, we are going to use it (the report)” to investigate, said Deng. “We are going to use the information that they have given us. Though we know a lot of false information that they have put in that report.”

The PBS NewsHour looks at accusations that South Sudanese politicians are using foreign aid for their own purposes.

He also responded to reports of a spike of violence in Juba in July and, in particular, an attack on a hotel in which one person was killed and several civilians were raped.

Deng said President Salva Kiir convened a committee led by a respected judge to oversee the investigation into the incident. Several people were arrested, and the committee recommended a tribunal to put those accused on trial, he said.

“We have not yet established who among those arrested have committed the rape. We should not like (that) to happen again (to) individual American or other foreigners or South Sudanese,” he said.

Deng was South Sudan’s mining minister before he was appointed acting first vice president in July.

The previous first vice president, Riek Machar, fled the country in August following the latest surge of violence. Machar, the main opposition leader, last week called for people to take up arms against the government in Juba, which he called “authoritarian and racist.”

South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, is one of the conflicts — along with Syria and Afghanistan — fueling the global refugee crisis. South Sudan recently crossed the million-refugee mark, according to the United Nations.

The U.N. Security Council has approved sending an additional 4,000 peacekeepers to South Sudan to add to the existing 12,000-member security force, but the government has been reluctant to accept them.

“It’s not that we don’t want (them),” Deng told Sreenivasan, but it’s something “the world family has decided to impose it on us.

“Our fear is this, that the history of external intervention in the world, not only in Africa — in the whole world, sometimes affects negatively national healing, national cohesion and unity of the people.”

Deng told the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 23 that his government wants to go over the details with the U.N. before the additional force is deployed. He said his country is now stable and peaceful, and life is returning to normal in his address to the U.N.

Watch Deng’s interview on Monday’s PBS NewsHour.