South Sudan’s newly-appointed finance minister unveils approach to fix economy

Newly-appointed South Sudan finance minister Athian Diing Athian taking oath of office before President Salva Kiir Mayardit in Juba last week. [Photo by Presidency]

Newly-appointed South Sudan finance minister Athian Diing Athian taking oath of office before President Salva Kiir Mayardit in Juba last week. [Photo by Presidency]

JUBA – South Sudan’s new finance minister is determined to check runaway inflation as the first step in turning around a country shattered by conflict since it seceded from Sudan in 2011 and, more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.

Production of crude — the landlocked nation’s main export — has dropped to 170,000 barrels a day, less than half the output just before war broke out in 2013. Attempts to revive output have been stymied by low international prices, while lock downs to control the virus have delayed the movement of equipment and materials.

“Rampant inflation is detrimental to our overall goal and must be curbed as soon as a matter of urgency,” Athian Diing Athian said in an interview from the capital, Juba. “To accomplish this, we must immediately maximize revenue to ensure the efficient and prudent allocation and accountability of public resources.”

Oil is the country’s biggest source of income and the lower prices have battered its reserves and revenue, fueling inflation that reached 37.2% in April, according to the last data released by the central bank. The South Sudanese pound has plunged to 447 per dollar on the parallel market, compared with the official rate of 167 to the greenback.

Meeting Obligations

“I will be working closely with all financial institutions of the government as well as our international partners, to position ourselves to navigate this crisis,” Athian said. “Once we have streamlined revenue flows, we will ensure that government obligations are met.”

Service delivery is paramount for success, Athian said. “One thing the pandemic has taught us is that it is imperative we build the capacity of our basic services,” he said. “The threat of Covid-19 is still real and we must focus on improving access to health-care across the country.”

South Sudan had 2,649 cases of the virus as of Tuesday, with 1,290 recoveries and 49 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Irish Presbyterian Church urges end to South Sudan violence

Logo of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland [Photo via Irish News]

Logo of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland [Photo via Irish News]

DUBLIN, IRELAND – The Presbyterian Church of Ireland (PCI) added its name to a statement that draws attention to the situation in the East African country.

Published today, the statement, which has been produced by churches and agencies affiliated to the Ecumenical Network on South Sudan (ENSS), calls for ordinary South Sudanese people – including young people and women – to feel engaged in the process.

The statement also calls upon PCI and other church partners to stand with the world’s newest nation and points out that the conflict has led to a “dire humanitarian situation” with 7.5 million people requiring humanitarian assistance and more that 2.2 million fleeing the country.

South Sudan is also ranked the country third most vulnerable to the impact of Covid-19.

Rev Dr Liz Hughes, convener of denomination’s Council for Global Mission, said: “Our hearts are heavy for the people of South Sudan and for those who are endeavouring to build peace at every level of society.

“This includes the leaders and members of our partner Presbyterian church. On this International day of Peace, we once again reiterate our commitment to join with them in prayerful solidarity.

“For many years we have prayed for and provided practical support for the work of our partner church in South Sudan in relation to the humanitarian situation there, and in East Africa in general.”

She said PCI had encouraged support “through grants to our partner church and through our development partners Tearfund and Christian Aid Ireland.”

Chinese government donates 3,000 tons of rice to South Sudan amid floods

Manasseh Lomole (L, Front), chairperson of SSRRC and Chinese Ambassador to Juba  Hua Ning (R, Front) sign documents during a handover ceremony of food aid in Juba, South Sudan, on Sept. 17, 2020. [Photo by Xinhua]

Manasseh Lomole (L, Front), chairperson of SSRRC and Chinese Ambassador to Juba Hua Ning (R, Front) sign documents during a handover ceremony of food aid in Juba, South Sudan, on Sept. 17, 2020. [Photo by Xinhua]

JUBA – The Chinese Embassy in South Sudan on Thursday handed over 3,000 tons of rice as emergency food aid to the east African country.

The embassy said the 1,500 tons of the donation will go for emergency relief to help people affected by recent floods.

The remaining half will be used to support the training of the unified armed forces as part of China’s support to South Sudan’s peace process.

“On behalf of the people of South Sudan, we say thank for the rice donation,” Peter Mayen Majongdit, South Sudan’s Humanitarian Affairs Minister, said.

“Our relations with China are unbreakable and we will continue to maintain this strong relationship in various areas,” Majongdit added.

Manasseh Lomole, chairperson of South Sudan’s Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, said the Chinese food aid came at the right time when the conflict-torn country is battling severe disasters such as floods and food insecurity.

“People have been displaced, crops submerged under water, livestock lost and property destroyed. People are heading for a serious food shortage,” Lomole added.

The oil-rich South Sudan is currently facing a severe economic crisis amid a fall in global oil prices.

The crisis in the world’s newest nation is further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and floods that have affected over 500,000 people nationwide.

“The Chinese government and people are very concerned about the recent floods in Unity, Jonglei and other states which affected a big population,” said Hua Ning, Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan.

Hua said since 2018, the Chinese government has so far provided a total of 9,600 tons of rice to South Sudan in seven batches, adding that Beijing will continue to support South Sudan to attain peace and stability.

“Our own experience has made us fully empathic with South Sudanese people,” the Chinese envoy said, adding that China will strive to help the country within its ability.

“China is also willing to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with South Sudan in disaster prevention and mitigation, so as to reduce the loss of people’s lives and property caused by natural disasters,” the Chinese envoy added.

South Sudan gov’t employees enter fifth month without salary – deputy finance minister

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit in 2020 [Photo by Reuters]

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit in 2020 [Photo by Reuters]

JUBA – South Sudan is running short of foreign-cash reserves and is struggling to pay public-servants’ wages as Africa’s newest country battles weak oil prices and violence that’s straining a peace agreement.

The country generated 3 billion South Sudanese pounds ($18 million) in non-oil revenue in August, which allowed it to pay state workers for April, Deputy Finance Minister Agok Makur said by phone from the capital, Juba. He’s hopeful increased non-oil income can help the government settle the May-through-August arrears.

“The situation of economic crisis in South Sudan now is very bad,” he said. “It is not like those days, 2010, 2011, because at that time oil was very high.”

The East African nation’s official production of crude has dropped to 170,000 barrels a day as lockdowns to control the coronavirus delay the movement of production equipment and materials. The commodity is the landlocked country’s only major export and is crucial to an economy shattered by conflict since it seceded from Sudan in 2011.

“Because of this Covid-19, because of the oil price dropping there is no foreign exchange and our pound has become of less value,” Makur said.

The nation’s currency has plunged to about 440 pounds to the dollar on the parallel market, compared with the official rate of 168.5 pounds. Inflation was 37.2% in April, according to the last data released by the central bank.

Waiting for aid

With brent crude prices almost 40% lower this year as the pandemic drains global demand, the government is looking to boost income from gold and gum arabic, a sap that’s extracted from acacia trees and used in sodas and pharmaceuticals, Makur said.

It’s applied for a $250 million loan from the African Export-Import Bank to help finance its recovery plan and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The government is also seeking aid as it tries to hold together a peace deal that brought an end to its civil war. Violence between ethnic groups in rural communities has continued, leaving hundreds of people dead.

“We are still waiting for the promises from countries like America and others in Europe and Africa,” Makur said. “Before we signed this agreement, we got promises from those countries, but up to now there has been no help.”

 

Kenyan authorities arrest man impersonating South Sudan army general

Aarafat Ikimu alias Rashid Koweh Bin Omar who was arrested on September 12, 2020 for impersonating Sudanese Army General. [Photo courtesy]

Aarafat Ikimu alias Rashid Koweh Bin Omar who was arrested on September 12, 2020 for impersonating Sudanese Army General. [Photo courtesy]

NAIROBI – Kenyan detectives from the Serious Crime Unit of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) on Friday arrested a 32-year-old man for allegedly impersonating a South Sudanese Army General.

Aarafat Ikimu alias Rashid Koweh Bin Omar was nabbed in Westlands, Nairobi County.

According to the DCI, the suspect has been targeting high-ranking females within the country, luring them into non-existent deals and defrauding them millions of shillings.

The most recent case involves a female director who reportedly lost Ksh.8 million to the suspect.

He is presently being held in lawful custody pending arraignment with charges of impersonation and obtaining money by false pretenses.

NAS claims four SPLA-IO soldiers arrested by Congolese army after crossing border

South Sudan and Congo in a map [Photo by BBC]

South Sudan and Congo in a map [Photo by BBC]

YAMBIO – South Sudan’s National Salvation Front (NAS) led by General Thomas Cirilo Swaka is claiming that four members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA) led by First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny have been arrested by the Congolese army after violating the neighboring country’s territorial integrity following an unprovoked attack on NAS.

In a statement extended to Sudans Post this evening, the holdout opposition group accused the South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF) and the SPLA-IO of continued aggression against their areas of control in the country’s Central Equatoria region.

“The Leadership of National Salvation Front (NAS) informs its members, supporters, the people of South Sudan and members of International Community about the latest violation of Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) by the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) and Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition SPLA-IO in Central Equatoria State,” the statement signed by Suba Samuel Manase reads in part.

“On 9th September 2020, the SSPDF and SPLA-IO carried out joint military attacks on NAS positions at Laiza and Agabe, Morobo County, Central Equatoria State. The enemy conducted two (2) deliberate attacks on NAS positions killing one soldier and wounding two others. The enemy was repulsed twice by gallant NAS combatants. Four (4) of the enemy soldiers were killed in action and several others wounded,” the statement claims.

The statement said “three (3) AK 47 rifles and one (1) RPG launcher were captured in good working condition.”

The statement further said and another group from the SPLA-IO attackers crossed deep into the Congolese territory and four of them were arrested by the Congolese authorities, a claim that Sudans Post could not verify.

“The second group of the enemy crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and went on rampage terrorizing Congolese citizens and South Sudanese Refugees. They plundered villages torching huts, looting animals, food and household property,” the statement said.

“They then went deeper into DRC by more than three (3) kilometers to the villages of Ukupadiku, Alekate and Udukuny. They burned more than thirty (30) grass thatched huts after looting and displacing South Sudanese civilians who have taken refugee along the DRC-Republic of South Sudan common border.

“The Congolese authorities intervened and arrested four (4) SPLA-IO soldiers. NAS assures its members and the people of South Sudan that we shall stand resolute in adhering to our noble mandate of self-defense and of protecting the innocent civilian lives and their property.”

The rebel group which is not a signatory to the revitalized peace agreement further reiterated its commitment to teh ongoing Rome process and the ceasefire agreement it signed with the government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in December 2017.

“NAS reiterates its commitment to the Cessions of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) signed on 21st December 2017 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, and to the Rome Declaration signed on 12th January 2020 in Rome Italy. NAS however, reserves the right to self-defense,” the statement concluded.

Eight people killed as fighting breaks out between South Sudanese refugees in Uganda’s Arua district

South Sudanese refugees arriving at Imvepi Refugee Settlement. Photo: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

South Sudanese refugees arriving at Imvepi Refugee Settlement. Photo: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

KAMPALA – Authorities in Uganda’s Arua district are saying that a Friday fighting between South Sudanese refugees at the Rhino Refugee Settlement Camp there  killed at least eight people.

Titus Jogo, the officer in charge of the refugee desk in Obangi district which borders Arua, said  briefing from police said the fight was triggered by quarrels over a water source.

Mr Jogo said the regional police officer in charge of Rhino told him a host community member was killed in a one on one fight with a refugee.

“After that, the host community mobilised and attacked the camp. He did not confirm whether the eight were refugees or from the host community,” he said.

Mr Jogo further said no arrests had been made but there was a heavy police presence in the area.

John Jal Dak, the executive director for Youth Social Advocacy Team, a civil society organisation in Rhino camp, said six refugees were confirmed dead.

“We have not confirmed the number of those killed in the host community. Many from the refugees side are reportedly missing. Many fled from their homes. Searches are taking place to identify those missing,” said Mr Dak.

Past incidents

In July 2018, more than 40 houses of South Sudanese refugees were burned down in Ayilo Camp in Adjumani district by the host community.

This followed allegations that a teenage girl was raped and killed by some refugees, a death police later said was due to a snake bite.

A similar incident happened in December 2019, when four people were killed and 16 wounded in Uganda’s Adjumani district.

In July, an ethnic fight instigated by the alleged theft of maize from a farm left many injured and hundreds of houses burnt down in Palorinya refugee settlement in Obangi district.

Uganda police authorities later said 20 suspects were arrested.

According to UNHCR, the Rhino camp is Uganda’s fourth largest refugee settlement area, with a population of 102,000 South Sudanese refugees as of August 2017.

Most of them were displaced by the 2013 and 2016 civil wars in South Sudan.

South Sudan says it will ban use of foreign currency to prevent further depreciation

Governor of Central Bank of South Sudan Jamal Abdalla [Photo via Radio Tamazuj]

Governor of Central Bank of South Sudan Jamal Abdalla [Photo via Radio Tamazuj]

JUBA – South Sudan’s central bank said Friday that it planned to ban the use of foreign currency nationwide to prevent further depreciation of the South Sudanese pound against the U.S. dollar after prices of food and other basic commodities have skyrocketed in recent weeks and months, the VOA reports.

Juba resident Saida Juan said prices were higher each time she headed to the market. The mother of seven said a kilo of meat, which sold for 700 South Sudanese pounds a few months ago, now costs 2,500 South Sudanese pounds, an increase that means her family can afford to eat only green vegetables these days.

She called on government officials to do everything in their power to stabilize prices.

“Traders selling goods in the markets have been blaming the price hikes on the increase in the exchange rate of the South Sudanese pound and the U.S. dollar. My message to our leaders is that they should try by all means possible to not allow foreign currency to dominate our markets, because the dollar is not our currency. We are really suffering,” Juan told South Sudan in Focus.

On Thursday, the Business Committee of South Sudan’s National Assembly summoned Bank of South Sudan Governor Gamal Abdallah Wani, Finance Minister Salvatore Garang Mabior, and Erjok Bullen, deputy commissioner of the National Revenue Authority, to answer questions about the depreciation of the South Sudanese pound.

Wani attributed the country’s high inflation rate to the 62% drop in international oil prices, ongoing violence in parts of the country, and increased military spending.

South Sudan earns only $4 to $6 per barrel of crude today, or $30 million a month. In 2011, South Sudan earned $900 million a month from oil exports.

Wani told the committee the Bank of South Sudan would issue new regulations banning the use of foreign currency, adding “everybody is carrying foreign currency illegally.”

Government-approved exchanges should be the only entities exchanging pounds for dollars, Wani said.

“That is why we need the national payment system, because we don’t know how much is going out in terms of the outflow and we don’t know how it is coming in terms of the inflows. The outflows, 50 million, hundreds of millions, what is it for? Is it to buy weapons to come and overthrow the government, or what is it for?” Wani told the committee.

On Friday, the exchange rate was $1 for 500 pounds on South Sudan’s black market.

The official rate hovered just above $1 to 55 pounds.

Sudan declares economic emergency over fall of currency – officials

Sudanese currency's 20 Sudanese Pound denomination [Photo by AFP]

Sudanese currency’s 20 Sudanese Pound denomination [Photo by AFP]

KHARTOUM – Sudan declared an economic state of emergency on Thursday after its currency fell sharply in recent weeks due to “systematic vandalism,” officials said.

The transitional government, in charge of the country since the ouster of Omar Al-Bashir last year, will set up special courts in the next days to fight smuggling and other illicit activities undermining the economy, officials told a televised news conference.

The pound had fluctuated drastically in recent days, prompting major food suppliers to halt distribution of their products and pushing prices of food up between 50% and 100% at supermarkets and retailers, a Reuters witness said.

It comes at a time of record Nile River flooding that has left tens of thousands of people homeless. The government said it had allocated more than 150 million Sudanese pounds ($2.73 million) to help flood victims, the state news agency reported.

The government under Bashir had previously tried to crack down on the black-market traders by arresting some of them, but others remained persistent. The currency has been devalued four times since 2018.

Inflation in Sudan is second only to that of Venezuela, with the headline rate climbing to 143.78% in July from 136.36% in June.

Security forces would also step up controls at borders and airports to stop a smuggling of commodities such as gold, officials said.

Deadly attack on remote village in Mayom kills 11, wounds 20 as others missing

Riak village in Mayom County [Photo by unknown]

Riak village in Mayom County [Photo by unknown]

BENTIU – A group of heavily armed youth suspected to have come from South Sudan’s Warrap state has attacked an area in Unity state’s Mayom county, local officials with direct knowledge told Sudans Post this morning.

The attack which has killed 11 people and wounded dozens comes a week after authorities in Warrap state said armed youth from Mayom attacked a village there killing a woman along with her two children.

Speaking to Sudans Post this, Gatkuoth Mut Turoah, a youth activist from Mayom county, said the deadly attack took place exactly at Riak Payam of Mayom at down today.

He said eleven (11) eleven people were killed and several others wounded adding that there are others who are also missing. The former opposition official said search for those missing was ongoing.

“There was an attack on Riak Payam at 04:00AM today. Eleven people have been confirmed dead. 20 people have been wounded many are missing too,” Gatkuoth told Sudans Post on phone from Juba.

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