Articles and Analysies
Averting the Course of Justice: The Saga of Josephine Lagu Yanga BY: John Ito Yanga Lagu, JUBA
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Nov 3, 2009 - 10:08:48 PM

Averting the Course   of Justice: The Saga of Josephine Lagu Yanga

BY: John Ito Yanga Lagu, JUBA


On The Citizen’s newspaper dated 28th October 2009 , a small article entitled 'Lagu’s case flops in Juba Court ' was published. In two earlier editions two separate articles also appeared, one entitled 'Lagu’s successor fears for his life,' and the other' Lagu’s successor faces revolt,' Mon. 5th Oct 2009 .  

What is the Lagu case? The case in question is a case brought by the government’s prosecutor-general in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, against the suspended Undersecretary for Higher &Tertiary Education in the Ministry of Education Science and Technology. It is alleged that the Undersecretary has misappropriated funds meant for scholarships of students studying in East Africa in June 2009.   The Citizens paper went further and labelled her a thief, thus damaging her character and tarnishing her public image.     

We understand the public’s obsession with the case of Dr. Josephine Lagu Yanga, but Lagu is a family name and Undersecretary Josephine is just one of the several Lagus.   The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Citizen newspaper is Rtd. Gen Joseph Lagu.   So which Lagu are you referring to when you say “Lagu’s case flops in Juba Court ”?  

Since this case is specifically concerning the daughter of the Rtd General and not the General or any other members of the Lagu family, it is better to be explicit and refer to her with her first name instead of confusing her with other members of the Lagu family. Such connotations like “Lagu’s successor” can incite the public against the suspended Undersecretary or any member of the Lagu family.   The immediate question that comes to mind is who is Lagu’s successor? Does Lagu have a successor in Juba ? Does Lagu have a dynasty in the Sudan to be inherited by any of his offsprings? No one will believe that by the word “successor”, the writer was actually referring to the Acting Undersecretary, Atem Kur Jok.  

The ordinary reader will immediately conclude that the successor being referred is the suspended Undersecretary Dr. Josephine Lagu.   Although the writer started by writing about the recent crisis in the ministry, he quickly slipped back to the same old story about the alleged lost scholarship money and the sordid story.   This is bad journalism and it amounts to disrespect for the Chairman of your Board of Directors.   Josephine is a dedicated professional educationalist and has shown no interest in politics.   However, if any of Lagu’s children are interested in politics, and would   like to contest for any public office in the south or in the Sudan at large, they reserve their constitutional rights to do so.

Facts about the scholarship money

On our part, we maintain categorically that Josephine is innocent and has not taken a single pound from the students’ fund.   But since the public trial is going on unabated, we feel that keeping silent may be interpreted as admission of guilt: the more the silence the greater the damage. Therefore, to protect the integrity of this family, we are forced once again to break our silence.     

 1)   It is not true that Josephine transferred money into a private account by herself or secretly. The transfer of the 323,060 $ US dollars intended for the students studying in East Africa was transferred using the administrative and financial procedures and practices operational in the ministry at the time.   The transfer document was co-signed by Director General Atem Kur Jok.   

2) This transfer was done a day after Undersecretary Josephine had left for Kampala and the money arrived Kampala after her mission was suddenly terminated   and recalled back to Juba, by the minister who sent her in the first place.  

3) The actual money that is said to be missing is about 40,000$US dollars and not the whole amount 323,060$ US dollars transferred as the public is made to believe the rest of the money is still blocked in Uganda .

4) The Ministry of Education, Science& Technology (GoSS) does not have an account in Uganda and the money was not transferred to GoSS Liaison bank account ( Kampala ) because there were some technical and administrative issues that needed to be resolved.

5) Why was the money transferred through Felix’s account? At the same time transfer for the students in East Africa was being made, two similar transfers were made through personal accounts for the students in Egypt and Khartoum . So this was not the only money that was transferred through a personal account.   These accounts were just used to facilitate the transfers and were not the beneficiaries per se.    

6) Felix was not employed by the Undersecretary as it is made to appear, on the contrary, she found Felix working in the ministry as an IT Consultant, attached to the offices of the two Undersecretaries of General and Higher education.

It was in this capacity that Felix was given the responsibility to design the students’ Survey Form for a pilot study intended to establish the exact number of Southern students studying in the various universities and colleges in Uganda and Kenya .   The courses they were studying; the duration of the courses; when the courses start and end; the tuition fees structures; their personal details and the states in Southern Sudan they come from.  

The initiative was to create a database of students, to improve management of the scholarship programme, and to enable the directorate to develop an effective strategic plan, including a more realistic budgeting for year 2010.   If successful, it would have been replicated for all the Southern based universities in the Sudan .   Felix was one of the three persons from the ministry who took part in administering the Forms and analysing the data. He was also engaged in similar scholarship payment missions to East Africa before, and therefore Dr. Josephine Lagu had no grounds at the time to suspect his moral integrity.

However, if Felix has used some of the money as it appears to be, it was a breach of trust, for which he must be accountable.   But the Undersecretary strongly maintains that if her mission was not prematurely terminated by the minister, the mission would have been executed to perfection and the money would never have been misused.    

Multiple trial

At this stage, what we are concerned about is that it is over three months since Josephine was suspended. In his letter of suspension the minister of Education, Science & Technology, Prof.   Job Dharuai, stated that a “qualified body” will be formed to investigate the matter.   This has not happened.   On the contrary, soon after the suspension, the ministry released a detailed personal information about the identity of the Undersecretary and the reasons for her suspension which was broadcasted over the BBC and printed on a Ugandan newspaper.   This same information was picked by internet publishers and quickly became a sordid topic for public discussion in Juba , in the Sudan at large and globally.  

A month later, it was the same minister who raised the case in the Assembly in his response to the Motion by Hon Nartisio Loluke Manir, on the “ Status of education in southern Sudan ".   By so doing, the minister unduly politicised a hitherto internal administrative matter. The same case is still a part of an ongoing investigation by the Public Accounts Committee in the the South Sudan Legislative Assembly.  

Following removal of her immunity, on 20th August the same minister ordered the arrest of suspended Undersecretary who was eventually released on bail.    And now her accusers are pushing for, a court hearing.    

Here we have a scenario where the same case is being tried in two different institutions of the same government, with a possible third pending.   What exactly is happening?   The trial of the same case concurrently in several institutions seems to be unprecedented and the Lagu family is seriously concerned that there may be an attempt to deny Josephine a fair chance of an administrative proceeding. The right to an administrative public service procedure cannot be denied on the basis of the arrest which was unprocedural in the first place.   

The minister of Education cannot be allowed to bend the law or invent new ones at will. This punitive and vindictive action is a dangerous trend in handling of public office and public affairs and it is setting a bad precedent in southern Sudan . If this matter is to go to court, that should come after all administrative procedures have been exhausted. Otherwise it is a blatant attempt to avert the course of justice.  

We demand that this confusion is promptly addressed and rectified and the name of Lagu should not be mentioned any more in this case. Although the Citizens reporter, Daniel Agiu Angok, in his article dated 28th Oct., referred to Ms. Lagu as a “former” Undersecretary, but we are still to be informed that she has been dismissed.    

Signed: Mr. John Ito Yanga Lagu

Public Relations Officer; University of Juba , Atlabara Campus   

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