South Sudan President Salva Kiir chaired the high-level government meeting at which ministers decided to expel U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer over a comment he made about the young nation's economy, presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said Tuesday.
"Toby Lanzer’s statement was not giving hope to the people of South Sudan given that he was predicting the total collapse and we have not seen any collapsing country," Ateny said.
This was a Council of Ministers’ decision and the president has a prerogative to overturn it. He has not yet overturned it, but it is not impossible.
Lanzer allegedly made the statement last month as inflation skyrocketed, essential goods became scarce, and more people were going hungry and fleeing their homes in South Sudan. At the same time, fighting was escalating in Unity and Upper Nile states where all of South Sudan’s oil is produced.
Oil is the backbone of the economy, bringing in nearly all of the government’s revenues. International sources have said oil production is disrupted by the 17-month-old crisis in South Sudan, and oil workers have been pulled out of Upper Nile since the fighting returned at the end of April. But the government has insisted that it is still in control of the fields in Upper Nile and declared oil is still being exported and no oil workers have left.
President can revoke expulsion order
Ateny said Mr. Kiir can revoke Lanzer's expulsion order, as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has requested.
"It is the prerogative of the president. This was a Council of Ministers’ decision and the president has a prerogative to overturn it. He has not yet overturned it, but it is not impossible,” Ateny said.
Lanzer is not the first to warn that South Sudan’s economy is teetering on the edge of collapse. Last month, South Sudan opposition leader Lam Akol warned that runaway inflation was pushing the country to the brink of economic disaster. And on Monday, Deng Alor, the leader of a group of former political detainees who have returned to South Sudan to try to relaunch the peace process, said the same.
Toby Lanzer was able to mobilize NGOs to come and provide resources, the basic goods that we need.
Since the conflict broke out in December 2013, Lanzer has been an outspoken advocate for peace and has traveled throughout South Sudan to see first-hand the impact of the conflict on people’s lives.
Bong Kubuong, an internally displaced person (IDP) sheltering at a U.N. camp in South Sudan, said Lanzer understood the needs of IDPs.
A boy carries a girl as they walk through the mud in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp inside the U.N. base in Malakal, South Sudan, July 24, 2014.
“Toby Lanzer was able to mobilize NGOs to come and provide resources, the basicgoods that we need," he said.
Thanks in part to Lanzer's efforts, Kubuong said "services in the protection of civilian sites are somehow good," and he will remember the U.N. relief coordinator for that.
A British national, Lanzer was appointed by Ban as the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan in July, 2012. He is due to take up a new U.N. posting, in West Africa, at the end of this month.
Lanzer was not in South Sudan when the government announced that it intended to expel him. A deputy spokesman for Ban, Farhan Haq, told South Sudan in Focus that any attempt on the part of the South Sudan government to bar Lanzer from re-entering the country would be "unacceptable."