JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN —
South Sudan is recalling its top diplomats from seven countries, but says the recalls have nothing to do with the country's economic crisis.
The crisis, sparked by three and a half years of civil war, has left South Sudan's government strapped for cash, and most of the country's envoys around the world have not received salaries for up to six months.
A letter dated June 14, signed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Deng Alor, gave 60 days' notice to ambassadors in Britain, Sudan and Uganda, as well as the heads of missions in Germany, India, Eritrea and Egypt to report back to Juba.
The ministry's spokesman, Mawein Makol Ariik, confirmed the government is recalling some of its envoys but denies the decision is connected to economic problems.
Oil sales are down
He told VOA's South Sudan in Focus that the recall is part of a “normal process” that all ambassadors undergo.
“Each and every ambassador has to stay outside for a certain period of time and come back to the headquarters to come and serve here,” he said Wednesday. “And other persons from the headquarters go out also to go and do services to the country outside. So any ambassador that you are hearing is coming back, is coming back because their term has just finished outside.”
The ongoing war has reduced government revenue from oil sales, South Sudan's main source of external revenue.
Ariik admits the economic crisis has affected the operations of South Sudan's 29 embassies during the past six months.
He said that in late March, some of South Sudan's embassies, including the one in London, were given an ultimatum to pay rent arrears or be evicted.
London office moved
A diplomat at South Sudan's embassy in London said the embassy since has moved to a new building, and that rents for June, July and August were paid in advance.
AriIk says the government still needs to make rent payments for several other embassies.
“At the moment you see difficulties here in the country; also you expect to have difficulties with the embassies because it is a budget that comes out from the overall budget of the country," he said. “And that is why most of our embassies for the last 6-5 months have been having difficulties of getting salaries on time. But the government is working to make sure that now this thing is streamlined and salaries will be paid on time.”
South Sudanese diplomats in Washington were last paid in April this year after going four months without salaries.
The outgoing South Sudanese Ambassador to Sudan, Mayen Dut Wol, confirms he is among the diplomats being recalled to Juba.
Speaking by phone from the Sudanese capital Khartoum, Wol says it is “just a normal routine for the ministry” and he believes it is time for another person to take over his role in Khartoum.
“If your time is finished you can be called back to the headquarters (and) you can even be deployed to other areas,” said Wol.
When asked about the delays in payment of salaries, Wol says he understands the economic crisis facing South Sudan in general, and he declined to comment further.