Vivacell arbitrator is incompetent – Makuei

Vivacell arbitrator is incompetent – Makuei
Information Minister Michael Makuei said that plans are a foot to increase workers’ pay. [Courtesy]

The Minister of Information and Postal Services, Michael Makuei Lueth, accused the arbitrator presiding over the Vivacell lawsuit of incompetence.

Makuei complained that his ministry has been following the case with Vivacell for a long time only for the arbitrator to issue an “award” serving as the conclusion and that Vivacell is demanding $3 billion from the government.

Addressing the journalists after last Friday’s cabinet meeting, Makuei said the cabinet had approved $4,482,500 to appeal against the arbitrator’s ruling.

He said the money will be paid to the arbitration court, along with court costs and attorneys’ fees.

“We disputed the $3 billion, and we even disputed the competence of the arbitrator to look into that case because we are an entity; we are a country with its own laws.”

“So, our laws should apply in this particular case.” “The arbitrator did not listen to us; he decided to knock out the 2 billion, leaving 1 billion,” Makuei said.

“We are appealing now against the decision of the arbitrator in a Swiss court, which is the centre of arbitration,” he said.

“The amount being claimed by these people is not in place, and number three, we did not dismiss or finally stop Vivacell, but we suspended its operation,” said Makuei, as he highlighted grounds for challenging the process.

He asserted that the government was engaging both local firms and two foreign ones—one based in Switzerland and the other in London.

According to Makuei, Vivacell was operating under a license from the New Sudan for which the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army fought.

It was a license provided by the New Sudan’s civil authority, and Vivacell (Fattouch group) purchased the license when it was first issued.

 “They paid the money for the license, and Vivacell was exempt from everything for 10 years: from payment of all the fees and whatever; for 10 years from the date of its operation.”

He said he approached the company to obtain the right licence after the 10 years had elapsed, but Vivacell denied the request, insisting that it had to operate under the New Sudan license.

“I suspended their operations with the aim of bringing them to the table so that we could talk, but they refused and went and complained in the international court of arbitration,” Makuei told the reporters.

Fattouch Investment Group of Lebanon, which had acquired NOW (Network of the World) in 2007, started operating Vivacell in 2008. NOW was a South Sudanese company that obtained a GSM license for the region but never put it into operations.

Its operations were halted by Makuei in March 2018 after he demanded $66 million in license fees from the business and accused it of failing to follow some government regulations.