Uganda has agreed to send a team of technical people to help revitalize the sinking South Sudan economy.
The decision was reached at after a two day closed door meeting between top Uganda government officials and those of South Sudan.
Speaking to our reporter exclusively after the meeting, South Sudan Finance Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau, said that his delegation was in Uganda to seek technical support to help revive and diversify the economy.
“At the present, the economy…is facing challenges because South Sudan is depending on oil and oil globally is in crisis; the price is declining and that led to a big deficit in the government programmes. So South Sudan government wants to build the non-oil sector to be able to generate revenue,” said Dau.
While the minister could not say when the technical team from Uganda would arrive in South Sudan, sources say the team is expected to leave for Juba next week.
“We are going to report to the leadership, who will decide when the technical support team should go to South Sudan or when to send a group here for training,” said Dau.
Uganda will provide technical support in the areas of central banking, budget preparation, budget discipline, in developing a strong system of revenue collection, monitoring and management and Agriculture.
In a meeting with deputy governor Bank of Uganda, Louis Kasekende yesterday, the team was given lessons on how to operate the central bank as an independent entity and on ways to raise revenue such as through selling treasury bills and bonds. The South Sudanese were advised to avoid deficit financing.
The delegation to Uganda, which included three under secretaries and a host of officials from various ministries, met with Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, Deputy Governor Louis Kasekende, Commissioner General Uganda Revenue Authority, Doris Akol, Attorney General William Byaruhanga and Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde.
A source privy to the discussions said that Dau informed the meeting that the country’s economy was in a perilous state and needed urgent help.
Dau implored the government to act fast and give it technical support as was agreed between President Museveni and his counterpart Salva Kiir, two weeks ago.
Uganda is South Sudan’s biggest trading partner. It exports a wide range of products, ranging from food staff to electronics.
The Transitional Government of South Sudan faces tough times as revenue from oil has dwindled from $500 million per month in 2005, to now, a tiny $10 million. Its budget was 98% funded by oil proceeds.
The dwindling oil revenue is as a result of fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and opposition leader, also former Vice President Riek Machar.
The country is yet to pass a new budget for the 2016/2017 financial year. It has not been able to pay government workers in the last month and last week, the finance minister cancelled all cheques to suppliers due to financial shortage.
Inflation this week stands at 661 percent.
John Kirby, the Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs states that the US is alarmed by the recent UNICEF report that implicates South Sudanese government forces in the recruitment of child soldiers since violence broke out in July.
UNICEF announced that 650 children had been recruited into South Sudan’s current conflict in 2016 alone while an estimated 16,000 children have been recruited by both government and opposition forces since the outbreak of conflict in December 2013.
Kirby states that the US remains committed to securing accountability for those who recruit and use children as soldiers.
“Above and beyond our calls for an end to ongoing violence in South Sudan, we insist on an immediate halt to the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers by government and opposition forces,” he says.
Kirby notes that individuals responsible for the unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers for armed groups or forces may be subject to sanction under U.S. law and may be targeted for UN sanctions.
He says the continued unlawful recruitment and use of children in armed conflict in South Sudan is unacceptable, and eliminating the practice is a leading priority of the United States.
Charlie Yaxley, the associate external relations officer with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said that many refugees are fleeing in a bid to protect their children from being abducted by unknown people. There are reports of children being abducted from their homes and in school by armed militants.