JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN —
In a speech to open a new session of the national legislature Tuesday, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir vowed to keep the country at peace and to gradually return South Sudan to prosperity after a year of tough austerity measures.
Citing his own experience as a soldier, which he said allowed him to "know the devastation of war, and understand the terrible price which it would exact upon our people," Kiir pledged to keep South Sudan at peace.
He vowed to pay back debts to countries and donor groups that helped keep South Sudan afloat during more than a year of austerity measures imposed after South Sudan shut down its 350,000 barrel a day oil production amid a dispute with Sudan over pipeline transit fees.
Kiir said that although production has resumed, it would take awhile for the economy to return to pre-shutdown levels.
"It is not possible to leave austerity behind straight away," Kiir said.
"We must keep our belts tight until the end of the year."
Kiir called for the legislature to pass a bill that would guide the spending of revenue from the country’s oil and pledged that South Sudan will learn fiscal responsibility this year.
He called for more support for the private sector in South Sudan, and urged foreign firms, international organizations and NGOs "to employ South Sudanese in all jobs which do not require specialist skills that our workforce cannot supply" in order to cut the country's high unemployment rate.
Kiir also warned about instability at home, in Jonglei state, where the army is fighting to put down a rebellion led by David Yau Yau, and in neighboring countries.
"I note with concern the recent coup in Central African Republic, and the continuing insecurity in certain areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both of these situations could spill over into our territory," he said.
He vowed to track down those who killed five UN peacekeepers from India last month, saying: "We will pursue the criminals and justice will prevail."
And the South Sudanese president vowed to pass a bill to control immigration.
"We do not need foreigners to work as housekeepers, washerwomen, drivers, gardeners and shopkeepers. These jobs should be filled by our own people, who badly need work," he said.
The South Sudanese president opened his speech with the African proverb "A boat doesn’t move forward if everybody peddles in their own way," adding: "Now, more than ever, it is critical that we move forward together with one vision for South Sudan."