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On One-Year Anniversary, Analyst says South Sudan Can Do Better

  • John Tanza

A South Sudan oil production facility in Unity State.

A South Sudan oil production facility in Unity State.

An American researcher on South Sudan says the country has faced countless difficulties during its first year as an independent country. Eric Reeves described the performance of the new government as “very disappointing,” and called official corruption in South Sudan “alarming.”

‘’As many friends of South Sudan feel, I am disappointed in many respects. The scale of corruption has been deeply dismaying; the earliest efforts at disarmament were not well conceived. Not enough [has been] done to address issues of ethnic animosity’’ he said.

Reeves teaches English Language and Literature at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. He has served as a consultant to a number of human rights and humanitarian organizations operating in South Sudan.

The country’s first year included a standoff between it and its neighbor, the Republic of Sudan, over oil transfer fees. The university professor attributes Juba’s current economic hardships to what he calls “Sudan’s tactics” of weakening the government in South Sudan. He accused Khartoum of waging an economic war on Juba the day South Sudan declared its independence.

‘’Khartoum had made a decision not to arrive at a reasonable arrangement on oil transportation [fees up north] by asking 36 dollars (per) barrel. They compelled South Sudan to shut down oil production in January,” he said.

But Reeves said it doesn’t have stay that way. South Sudan should borrow money now in anticipation of oil revenues in the future, he said. He cautioned that Juba will lose money in the beginning, but eventually it will help the country to boost its foreign currency reserves.

Inflationary fears

Reeves said South Sudan now faces what he called a “very serious threat of inflation” that might lead to people losing confidence in the country and its economy.
He said Juba is now bankrupt and has no foreign currency backing up South Sudanese pounds.

‘’My fear is [that] since inflation is already very high, you can have hyperinflation. Hyperinflation would mean that there is no currency that can be used even for domestic transaction,’’ he said.

He predicted that South Sudan is heading toward a situation where it will have no money to pay its public servants, security forces, or vendors that provide services to government institutions. He said the situation could improve if the country’s oil production resumes operation. But he warned Juba against ‘’putting all of its eggs in one basket.’’

Lack of jobs

He said even though South Sudan does not have money, it cannot demobilize its army. He also pointed out that there are not enough jobs in the country. Reeves fears the current situation could destabilize the country.

Human rights

Reeves also says human rights violations remain high in the country. He urged President Salva Kiir to take the lead on addressing issues related to the abuse of power by South Sudan’s security forces.

‘’[President Salva Kiir] has to step in, other ministers have to step in and make it clear …[that] the [soldiers] …. will be made accountable [for] the kinds of abuses that see journalists imprisoned, that see people shot for no reason by soldiers.”

Human Rights Watch released a report last month calling on Juba to urgently address human rights violations by its military, police and plain clothes security officials. The report also urged the government to improve its judiciary system and living conditions at detention centers.

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