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South Sudan student leaders acquitted of financial scam by Ugandan police

November 7, 2012 (KAMPALA) – Ugandan police set free Monday all but one of the top leadership of the South Sudanese Students’ Union (SSSU) in Kampala, after finding no grounds to prosecute them for financial malpractice.

Bill Dhieu, the students’ finance secretary, was remanded in custody and is due to appear in court on November 27. Dhieu was first arrested on October 5 and charged with forging signatures in order to withdraw over US$30,000 and over 50 million Ugandan shillings but claimed that he was not “alone”, prompting the students’ representatives to constituent a committee of inquiry.

The seven-member committee of inquiry accused all the union’s top leaders of involvement in the funds going missing funds and a vote of the SSSU parliament asked for the union leaders to step aside, so an impartial investigation could take place.

James Mayar, the SSSU leader who stepped aside in October, described the police decision as a victory in his attempts to clear his name.

“I knew that I was innocent from the beginning though I was worried in the last few weeks about the future of the [students’] union,” Mayar told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.

In a meeting attended by student leaders on Monday in Kampala, the Ugandan police officers who investigated the embattled leaders acquitted Mayar, his deputy Jiel Jiel, secretary general David Lam, top SSSU advisor Nyibango Bor and deputy secretary of parliament affairs Peter Kuot of corruption. The police said that the six union leaders were “without case to answer.”

However, the Union’s secretary of finance Bill Dhieu remains accused using forged signatures and withdrawing public money without the consent of other student leaders. He denies the charges.

MISSING FUNDS

The reinstated student leader, James Mayar claims that the amount of funds missing could not be established “because Bill [Dhieu] refused to make public bank statements.” But during his appearance to student representative in October, Bill Dhieu alleged that he withdrew the missing money with the full knowledge of other leaders.

Mayar estimated that around US$35,000 and over 50 million Ugandan shillings (US$20,000) was missing from the union’s bank account.

The students’ committee of inquiry found that transactions made using the SSSU bank account exceed US$200,000. Asked whose money was wired through the public account, Mayar denied any knowledge such practices.

The SSSU’s leadership is elected annually but this year’s polls have been delayed, Mayar said, promising to hand over the office to new leaders before the end of the year.

“The money is not for [me] or Bill [Dheiu] but for the students and anybody will make sure that it is returned,” said the student leader.

Deborah Apat, the Speaker of South Sudanese Students’ Union told Sudan Tribune that she is yet to decide on how to respond to the police’s decision and declined to specify on whether the acquitted leaders still have a case to answer.

(ST)

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