South Sudan debt embarrassing the country – Parliament told  

South Sudan debt embarrassing the country – Parliament told  
Animu Athiei (file photo)

South Sudan has accrued a lot of debt abroad that diplomats are now shying away from diplomatic functions to save their faces and the shuttered image of the country, Parliament was told.

Changkouth Bichiock, the chairperson of the Economic Cluster and Committee on Finance and Economic Planning, told the House Friday, that the country’s image has been soiled with choking debt running into hundreds of billions of pounds.

Bichiock spoke during the second reading of the Fiscal Year 2022/2023 budget in Parliament on Friday.

The House heard that some foreign diplomats have not been paid salaries dating back to 2019 while embassy vehicles are grounded due to poor servicing – seats and tables worn out.

Salaries for the employees in different diplomatic missions abroad are said to have accrued to a whopping SSP14.7 billion (USD27 million) from 2019 to date, The City Review has learnt.

According to the proposed budget report, the mission also incurred SSP 16 billion (USD 29 million) in other arrears between January to December 2020 while diplomats are owed a combined SSP 30 billion in salary arrears under the same year in review.

The situation is so bad that some diplomats have resorted to skipping public functions while those who still manage to work are now using Uber and taxis because their official cars have been grounded due to lack of fuel.

“The capital expenditure has been frozen for quite a long time and vehicles and furniture, in particular, are worn out. This situation brought down the mobility of many missions abroad,” read the report seen by City Review.

“The current situation is not encouraging. The image of the country is so low that some ambassadors abroad avoid diplomatic functions because of transportation facilities. Some of them use Uber taxis. This cannot continue!”

The mission also owes in excess of eight billion pounds (USD 15 million) in rent, travel and other utility bills.

 “Accumulated arrears due to the foreign landlords have embarrassed the country so much that some actions by foreign landlords stained the reputation of the country,” read the report in our possession.

So bad is the situation that some countries have decided to deny visas to new South Sudanese diplomats replacing the old ones, for rotation purposes according to the Geneva Convention for foreign missions.

“The same is true of diplomats who paid their tickets back to South Sudan for recall and so on with other financial commitments.

“Given the analysis mentioned above, together with the report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the situation that the missions are facing, the committee recommend financial remedies to reduce the burden on the mission abroad, to regain the reputation and good image of the country internally and externally.

“The image of the country abroad is already damaged. Embassies are closed while staff are unable to meet their basic livelihoods. Furthermore, South Sudan in the regional and international arena cannot meet its obligations,” added the damning report.

In August, President Salva Kiir said that the government would clear outstanding arrears owed to foreign diplomats adding there will be no further salary delays going forward.

Kiir spoke during a farewell meeting with Ambassadors of South Sudan accredited to various foreign missions.