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South Sudan tells foreign workers to pay work permit fees or leave 

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Thursday warned foreign workers to pay for the recently hiked work permit fees or leave the war-torn country.

Minister of Information Michael Makuei told journalists in Juba that foreign workers who fail to honor the March 2 work permit fees change initiated last week by the ministry of public service will be forced out of the country.

“Those who are refusing to pay their fees will definitely be illegal residents, and they will have to go. If you want to continue to earn your living in South Sudan, you pay for your resident, work permit and visa,” Makuei revealed.

The work permit fees for professionals/business class shot up from 400 U.S dollars to 10,000 dollars, blue collar jobs to 2,000 and casual laborers 1,000 U.S dollars, and this has been viewed as veiled target to clamp down on mostly humanitarian workers who have since outbreak of the December 2013, conflict endured obstruction, amid accusations by the government of lacking neutrality.

“We don’t want to be seen to be harassing (foreigners) people, but anybody who is resisting it will either give in or quit. There is no compromise,” Makuei disclosed.

The United Nations in late February, declared famine in parts of the country and this latest development is likely to impede humanitarian access to the 100,000 starving people in northern Unity region, and also the 5.5 million people in need of urgent food assistance.

Makuei also defended the fees which are part of the ministry of finance policy to widen non-oil revenue, as hyper inflation nears 800 percent due to decline in production in the northern oil fields of Unity and Upper Nile which account for 98 percent funding of fiscal budget.

“Here in South Sudan, our fees for the resident permits were the lowest in the region and we had to conform to what is happening in the region,” he said. Oil production reduced from over 350,000 barrels a day (bpd) to less than 130,000 bpd.

“These fees were already in the process and there was no way you would do it without amending the law. The minister of finance decided to include the amendment of the Taxation Act before passing of the budget,” Makuei added.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, following political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. The war has killed tens of thousands, displaced more than two million from their homes.

Renewed violence in July 2016 that threatened to tear apart a fragile 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict, spilled over into once peace Equatoria region and led to massive refugee influx of 1.5 million people fleeing brutal atrocities into neighboring countries.



South Sudan says upcoming national prayers genuine not partisan

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- South Sudan said Thursday said the upcoming national prayers initiated by President Salva Kiir geared toward achieving forgiveness and reconciliation in the war-torn country is genuine and devoid of partisan politics.

The minister of information Michael Makuei told journalists in the capital Juba, that the national prayer slated for March 10, and to be preceded by the much touted national dialogue is open to all South Sudanese with divergent views on condition they denounced violence.

“President Kiir has declared that before we launch our national dialogue let us repent, forgive one another and ask God for forgiveness because we have sinned,” he said.

“Without us repenting, definitely this national dialogue will be meaningless. So we need to repent, forgive one another so that we enter the national dialogue in peace,” he added.

Makuei disclosed that national dialogue initiated in December 2016 will be open, inclusive and seeks to collect views from all South Sudanese that will be forwarded to the president for implementation.

“All the categories (South Sudanese) are welcome to attend. This is inclusive of those who have decided to take up arms and fight the government. But for those who have taken up arms they need to lay down their arms and denounce violence,” he said.

The armed opposition (SPLA-IO) led by the exiled former First Vice President Riek Machar criticized the dialogue as political decoy geared at consolidating the Kiir regime, and instead called for resuscitation of the fragile 2015 peace agreement to end the more than three years of conflict.

Kiir replaced Machar as First Vice President with his former chief negotiator Taban Deng. And the two partners have since formed the transitional unity government, despite defection of top officials recently vowing to topple the Kiir regime from power.

“We are not saying we are negotiating with rebels, but we the people of South Sudan are the ones who will sit and dialogue among ourselves. And any outlaw (rebel) who accepts dialogue should put down his arms and join us,” Makuei said.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, following political dispute between president Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar resulting in killing of tens of thousands and displacement of more than two million.

However, renewed July fighting in 2016 threatened to tear apart the fragile 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict.


Top South Sudanese general forms new rebel movement

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- A senior South Sudanese official who resigned from the country’s army (SPLA) in February has formed a new rebel movement, vowing to overthrow the current administration of President Salva Kiir.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka, former deputy chief of logistics, resigned from the SPLA accusing the army of turning into a tribal army dominated by ethnic Dinka.

Swaka said in statement on Tuesday that his rebel group, the National Salvation Front (NAS) would use all avenues to fight the current government.

“The National Salvation Front (NAS) is convinced that to restore sanity and normalcy in our country, Kiir must go. He must vacate the office without further bloodshed, with a clear conscience and with determination, we declare the birth of a citizen-imposed change,” he wrote in his letter.

It still remains unclear how strong the new rebellion will be, or whether it will join ranks with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLA-IO) led by Deputy President Riek Machar.

SPLA spokesman Lul Ruai Koang downplayed any major threat the new rebel movement would pose on Juba, claiming that Swaka has no capacity as a new rebel leader to mobilize a strong rebel force.

“His announcement and formation of a new movement will not have any bearing on the national army and the government because when he defected, he defected alone and it doesn’t affect our overall performance,” Koang told Xinhua by phone.

South Sudan has been devastated by a civil war that broke out in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. Machar denied the accusation but then mobilized a rebel force.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government in April, but was again devastated by fresh violence in July, 2016.

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, with over 2 million displaced and another 4.6 million left severely food insecure, since December 2013.



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