In South Sudan, a soldier’s monthly wage cannot buy a chicken

Years of bloody conflict have crippled the country’s economy, exposing soldiers to an extremely difficult situation with their families as their monthly salaries cannot even buy a chicken.

According to an independent report obtained by Thessherald, a private soldier in the military earns about 1,200 South Sudanese pounds per month, equivalent to less than $4, making it the lowest paid army in the world.

Sometimes, they resort to doing odd jobs for a living as their monthly wages, which are supposed to be paid regularly, come once in a blue month.

South Sudan descended into conflict in mid-December 2013, after President Salva Kiir accused Dr. Machar of plotting a military coup against his administration – sparking deadly violence between forces on ethnic lines.

In September 2018, the Parties signed R-the ARCSS, aimed at restoring peace in the country. However, the ongoing deteriorating humanitarian situation along with other underlying factors continues to paralyze the economy.

Last week, the Ministry of Defense, Angelina Jany Teny admitted that lack of funding derails efforts to graduate the first batch of the Necessary Unified Forces.

Exposing South Sudan governance failure

   Opinion | By Jok Madut-Jok

November 2, 2020 (Thessherald)–Apart from the multiple wars that have plagued South Sudan over the past several years, by far the most damaging and frustrating blunder in the day to day governance in this country over the past 15 years, since the end of the liberation war in 2005, is the blurred line between professional civil service and political appointments.

Most of those who pass as civil servants in the young state today were almost all “appointed” wholesale as soon as the then Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) was set up beginning in 2005. Almost none were “recruited.” There is a big difference between political appointees and those hired through due process of meritocracy to become career civil servants. Political appointees can be removed from their job just as easily as they were appointed by an executive order.

When South Sudan became independent in 2011, there was as much global rejoice as there was quick recognition of deficit in skills necessary to run the new state. Efforts were made to find any South Sudanese officials who had served in the old Sudan before the breakup, to train new civil servants, including the release of the former fighters who fought in the liberation war, in order to beef up the functioning of state institutions.

Inter-Governmental Agency for Development (IGAD), a Horn and East African trade bloc, invested in an effort to transfer skills by hiring and stationing some senior civil servants from other East African countries in various ministries in Juba, pairing them with South Sudanese officials for a period of time in hope that the latter would be taught basic skills on the job.

This was applauded at first, given the protracted armed struggle that had compelled majority of South Sudan’s educated class to join the war or to flee from the war-torn country, missing any opportunities they could have had to develop their careers. But it was not long before pride got in the way of making use of foreign skills.

Any loud discussion about former combatants being unequipped to staff the nascent institutions of a new country and needing to upgrade their skills was totally unwelcome by these soldiers and their politico-military leaders in charge of the country, never mind the fact that they had spent more than 20 years in the bushes of South Sudan, fighting long, hard and testing wars. During the war, many senior officers used to declare that their duties would stop at the war of liberation and that they would need people with skills to run the country once it is free.

This was not to be. The liberators, typical of how they undermined their own revolution all across Africa, were not going to relinquish any space for the country’s other types of human capital to contribute to the shaping of the country’s development. It was these liberation fighters who were now to become the administrators, bank officials, police officers, judges, accountants and human resource personnel, after two decades of very little to no exposure to systems of governance of any kind.

Most of them had no capacity to do the jobs they now occupied. But the mention of this was near taboo. They were the ones to set up the institutions of the new state and the whole endeavour of state-building, of bringing professionalism to the institutions, strengthening the rule of law and entrenching the philosophy and practice of state machinery, faltered. This is not to say the failure of the state is entirely the fault of liberators. They were all that the country had, at least in the immediate sense.

It was, however, hoped that some of them would be trained on the job, some would retire in a few years and be replaced by more skilled, technology savvy and younger recruits, some perhaps returning from the Diaspora and others from the old Sudan.
But the liberators nailed themselves to the seats of government singularly by virtue of being liberators. Many of them regarded these jobs as rewards for their liberatory roles. A sense of entitlement to these jobs kicked in at almost all levels of government, including the top political leadership, which is made up of liberators.

They vigorously resisted any calls for civil service reforms or establishment of a system that looks for skills as basis for employment in the public sector. Some national ministers declared that they did not want any former fighters, their comrades in arms, being re-evaluated and reassigned according to their credentials. “No one asked them for certificates when they volunteered to fight to liberate this country,” one minister angrily said in response to the calls for review of personnel files with an eye to possible streamlining of civil service recruitment requirements.

The minister for public service and human resource development resigned 2011 in protest of the resistance to civil service reforms to cleansing of ghost names from the payroll and to establishment of a board to supervise personnel recruitment, salary scales and to ensure that meritocracy is sustained in the hiring process.

The most senior civil servant in a ministry in South Sudan’s government is the undersecretary, the equivalent of permanent or principal secretary in other East African countries. The person occupying this post needs to be a technocrat, someone who has spent a long time applying the laws of the land as enacted by elected representatives, creating institutional memory of the department they run and wider government.

Ordinarily, the only ‘boss’ such a person serves is the public, and the constitution, under any president or any other political office holder. This is not designed to give anyone a life-time job, but it enables them to speak truth to power without the risk of being fired. That is the way the Constitution is supposed to work. If they are career civil servants, they should have risen through the ranks without the president appointing them, nor should he be able to remove them without due process.

But this is not how it works in South Sudan, where the Presidency has taken more discretions and more powers than the Constitution allows and the undersecretary has been an appointee of the president and therefore also removable without any recourse.

This system, despite its obvious shallowness, is allowed to thrive, going 15 years now, out of total ignorance about how a constitutional state functions. It is also a way to serve the nepotistic cabal that controls the political office, give them a chance to hire cronies at a whim. But more importantly, the executive office maintains this system in order to be a smokescreen for what is clearly an attempt to keep civil servants loyal to the political class.

The system seems structured this way in order to enable the President to remove career professionals for the simple reason of replacing them with new favourites, new political allies, relatives who have lobbied for a post or to silence career professionals, lest they get dismissed if deemed disloyal.

Anyone looking to find explanation for why South Sudan is essentially a failed country, look no further than the mediocre civil service that has resisted reform for 15 years. It is the absence of career professionals from the state apparatus that is at the root of the ghastly theft of public resources, the low human development indexes, the level of everyday violence, the failure of most infrastructure projects, the depletion of foreign reserves and the fact that four million of the country’s citizens are displaced.

The author is Professor of Anthropology, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University

“Changing currency may not be worthwhile option for S. Sudan,” whistle-blower

South Sudan’s current banknotes |Photo: File

October 11, 2020 (Thessherald)–A local anti-corruption group, Integrity South Sudan, has warned that changing the national currency will not be a viable solution to improving the economy as long as the ongoing corruption continues in the country.

“Changing the national currency may not be a worthwhile option for South Sudan moving forward if it continues with rampant corruption,” the whistle-blowers said in a statement on Saturday.

Adding that, “By South Sudan using the word hyperinflation is a clear induction that the government has surely failed to control the inflation levels and because of hyperinflation South Sudanese currency lost its value. But the question is what factors played the role in deteriorating the South Sudanese pounds? And indeed there can be many factors that can play a major role to fuel hyperinflation in the economy for example the rampant/mismanagement of resources and the civil war.”

The group underlined that even if the country were to print dollars as tried by Zimbabwe in the past, the country would instead experience an unprecedented recession and other consequences.

“And even if we print our own dollars just like Zimbabwe who printed their own dollars but instead their economy continue to worse.”

“We see a lot of dollars in the hands of black marketers and security [agents] were deployed to arrest those selling dollars but they continue favoring their own people and this is evidence on street you will find a group of people who are selling and buying dollars openly. So is the issue currency or weak institutions?,” asked ISS.

The group pointed out that if the government is serious about addressing the economic crisis, it should pursue accountability and arrest anyone found to be hoarding money in their homes.

“If the government is serious to change the currency then, the government must now monitor those depositing huge sum of money into the banks now because most of them might be the corrupt leaders who were storing the corrupted money in their houses.”

Economist urges leaders to embark on implementing peace to fix economy

Hungry-looking South Sudanese refugees waiting for their food rations in Kakuma, Kenya|Photo: Thessherald

Oct 3, 2020 (Thessherald)–A South Sudanese prominent economist and lecturer at Juba University, Ahmed Morgan, has advised leaders to embark on implementing the peace deal as the the only way to tackle the country’s economic collapse.

“Economic problems in the country can only be fixed when you actually fix the pay for production in the economy, which we don’t have in the current state. And the basics for production of a good economy, we are supposed to have sustainable peace and general stability for security purposes so that we start local production for local consumption,” said Morgan in an interview with VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

He urged the government to formulate strategic plans and release the delayed salaries of civil servants who have not been paid for months.

“Civil servants have not been paid for months; then the government has to come up with plans on how it will never go back to the same position again. I have been complaining that we need to strengthen our policies of foreign exchange, by reducing imports of such things, not forgetting that South Sudan is an oil-producing country and still we are importing the final products of oil,” he added.

South Sudan is one of the oil-rich countries in the world. Oil is the lifeline of the nation’s economy, which is account for 95% of government revenues.

Gen. H. E. Dr. James Wani Igga and his new crisis management committee

Opinion | By Gatwech Ruei

August 26, 2020 (Thessherald)–As we know any economic crisis is as a result of the inflation rate. Or rising prices of goods and services, and it needs the government involvement to study the crisis then give recommendations to address the the causes of inflation.

But the big problem is, when you are beating around the bush, while you have a key solutionat hand will not help. If the government addresses the root causes of the conflict in Republic of South Sudan, the crisis management committee can succeed in their work. But the committee will fail for following reasons:

1- The Covid 19 is not the really cause of the inflation.

2- the communal fighting in the whole Country is not a cause of the inflation.

3- The current inflation is due to current political status quo and lack of vision by SPLM Leaders. 4- Delaying and rejecting the implementation of the peace agreement is a main cause of the inflation.

5- President Salva Kiir and his unwillingness to implement the peace agreement, will worsen the inflation even more and the crisis management committee will end up without any meaningful recommendations.

People of South Sudan should either accept the inflation as they accepted status quo and Coronavirus plus President Salva Kiir or the national conversation should consider the option to change Salva Kiir regime. People of South Sudan should know very well who is the common enemy to them.

I salute our people population in Maluth County in Upper Nile state for their peaceful demonstrations.

The crisis management committee is a deception by Government and will end up without good results like the Jongile committee and Tonj disarmament.

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Leaders eat life with big spoon as millions languish in poverty: activist

August 22, 2020 (Thessherald)–Despite widespread poverty in the country, South Sudanese leaders continue to enrich themselves as millions live under distressing conditions, says a civil society activist on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal.

“They are eating life with a big spoon, without thinking about the suffering population in the country,” the activist said on Saturday.

The comment comes a day after the Central Bank of South Sudan was criticized after an announcement that the entire country was facing a shortage of foreign currency reserves.

“This is an indication that we have failed as a nation. Announcing to the whole world that the country is running out of foreign currency is not just a laughing matter, but a complete shame for the country.”

On Friday, The Governor of the Bank of South Sudan strongly dismissed initial speculative reports that the bank had run out of hard currency, a statement that sparked public outcry.

The importance of foreign exchange reserves

Foreign currency reserves act as a shock absorber against factors that can lead to devaluation of the national currency.

It helps a country maintain the value of its currency at fixed rates.