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South Sudan: Economic Meltdown Looming

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South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit fired longtime Finance Minister Salvatore Garang Mabiordit Wol in an executive order read on national television Wednesday.

Mabiordit is the eighth finance minister dismissed by Kiir since 2011. The country’s new finance minister is Athian Diing Athian.

Kiir also fired Erjok Bullen, acting commissioner of the National Revenue Authority, and Chol Deng Thon Abel, head of the Nile Petroleum Corporation, or Nilepet, the country’s institution overseeing oil production.

The South Sudan head of state is suffering from increasingly acute paranoia. There are enough loyalists of the president in every institution of the country, and sacrificing one in other to divert citizen’s attention from the real issue will not in any way affect the real situation at hand. Kiir still has complete control of all this sector and the sacrificed ones will soon be moved to another juicy position.

Jok Madut Jok, co-founder and former director of the Juba-based Sudd Institute, said changing ministers will not solve the country’s economic crisis.

“But it is not just about changing faces,” he said. “It is particularly about building institutions of the nation. If it were a nation where institutions count, there is no way we can be convinced if so-and-so steals money. And yet at the end of the day, they walk away with their misdeeds and mistakes.”

No paychecks since April

Mabiordit said last week his ministry did not have the money to pay government workers who have been waiting for paychecks since April. He was summoned earlier in September by the National Assembly’s business committee to explain why the civil servants had not been paid.

Diplomats at various South Sudan missions abroad, including Washington, have not received their salaries for the past 19 months.

A source at the South Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs who is not authorized to speak to the media told South Sudan In Focus that South Sudan’s embassy in Washington received an eviction notice, and its bank account is on the verge of closure due to a lack of funds.

Mabiordit told lawmakers that the COVID-19 lockdown, coupled with the devastated global economy, affected crude oil prices and reduced revenue from South Sudan’s oil production.

South Sudanese on social media were satisfied with Kiir’s shakeup at the major financial and oil institutions.

South Sudanese are struggling

Jok said the changes meant nothing to the majority of South Sudanese, who are struggling to put food on the table.

“The only thing that can change this (situation) is for us to have institutional regulations,” he said. “There are laws to be sustained, and the legislature should question national ministers about their behaviors. There are other laws like economic security laws where if you misbehave (with public funds), security (officials) will investigate you.”

The auditor general’s office and the Anti-Corruption Commission should be empowered to hold corrupt official accountable, said Jok.

Kiir formed a crisis management committee in August to look at the root causes of the continuous economic hurdles facing South Sudan. The committee is yet to release its findings.

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