Fears for S Sudan's future after foreign worker ban

2014-09-17 16:52
File: AFP

File: AFP

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Nairobi - A move by war-torn South Sudan to turf out foreign workers has been met with shock, consternation and dire predictions that the country is being led towards total collapse.

On Tuesday the government ordered "all non-governmental organisations, private companies, banks, insurance companies, telecommunication companies, petroleum companies, hotels and lodges working in South Sudan... to notify all aliens working with them in all positions to cease working" within a month.

It said the resulting vacancies, ranging from receptionists to company directors, should be filled by government-vetted South Sudanese nationals.

Purportedly designed to "protect the rights and interests of the people of South Sudan", the move comes nine months into a brutal civil war that aid agencies say has pushed the world's youngest nation to the brink of a man-made famine.

According to the United Nations, 1.3 million people have been displaced internally, and many of them are dependent on free food, shelter and healthcare delivered by a network of international aid groups.

Disaster

Aid agency Oxfam, which provides help ranging from clean water to food for people living in appalling conditions, said the restrictions could be devastating.

"It would massively disrupt aid programmes across the country which feed over one million people," said Oxfam's Tariq Riebl.

"South Sudan is on a knife-edge and could easily tip into famine in 2015. We need to be expanding aid programmes in South Sudan, not restricting them."

The healthcare charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said it has for months been trying to recruit South Sudanese midwives, but had been unable to fill the "chronic vacancies".

The private sector also predicted disaster.

Tens of thousands of skilled workers from regional neighbours including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda are in the country, and together they run South Sudan's mobile telephone network, banking sector, upstream oil activities, hotels and other key infrastructure.

South Sudan itself suffers from a major shortage of skilled workers, with only around a quarter of the population able to read and write.

Bad memories of Idi Amin

Mwangi Kimenyi, a senior fellow and director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, said South Sudan appeared to be treading a path already taken during one of the darkest periods in Africa -- the rule of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

"The decision by the government is clearly a stupid one. It lacks any sound basis, and it runs counter to any informed and developmental-minded leadership," Kimenyi wrote, saying he failed to comprehend how a "struggling economy would take actions that accelerate the downward spiral of economic growth and human development."

"Such a move reminds us of the action by Idi Amin, who, early in his reign, expelled foreigners and even seized their investments. The consequences of such actions - namely the collapse of the Ugandan private sector, are well-known."

Jok Madut Jok, former senior government official and academic, said the decree was "embarrassing".

"A person cannot just wake up one day, go to an office and with a stroke of a pen issue an order - no discussion, no change to labour laws, no debate on immigration, nothing," he said.

Major brain-drain

"Should Kenyan and Ugandan teachers, for example, be expelled while we do not have any local teachers? Think before you act, people."

There are, however, signs that the South Sudanese government may already be backpedalling.

Quoted by Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper, government spokesperson Mawien Makol Ariik insisted there would be no expulsions.

"We are asking organisations to consider those positions where South Sudanese qualify. Where they don't let the foreign workers do the job," he was quoted as saying.

Fighting broke out in the oil-rich country, also the world's youngest nation, in December 2013 following a clash between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

The war spread rapidly across the country and has been marked by widespread human rights abuses and atrocities by both sides - and has exacerbated the human resources problem by causing a major brain-drain.

Read more on:    sudan  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.