S Sudan asks NGOs to fire foreign aid workers amid hunger crisis
South Sudan’s government has issued an order to non-governmental relief organizations to fire employees of foreign origin, saying they must cease working by mid-October.
Circular Number 007/2014 is issued under the hand and seal of Ngor Kolong Ngor, South Sudan’s Minister of Labour. The circular is copied to immigration and law enforcement agencies as well as six other cabinet ministers.
Distributed by government employees and published as an advertisement in The Citizen newspaper in the nation’s capital Juba, the circular explains that the its purpose is “to induce and protect the rights and interests of the people of South Sudan.”
“All Non-Governmental Organizations… working in South Sudan are directed to notify all the Aliens working with them in all the positions to cease working as from 15th October, 2014 forthwith,” reads the decree.
The circular goes on to say that the NGOs must advertise for the “vacant” positions of Executive Directors, Personnel Managers, Secretaries, human resources officers (heads of HR departments), public relations officers, procurement officers, logisticians, front desk officers, and receptionists.
“Through the office of the Director General of Labour in the Ministry of these posts have to be filled by competent South Sudanese Nationals [sic],” reads the order.
Telecommunications companies, banks, insurance companies, oil companies, hotels and lodges are also mentioned, and likewise must comply with the order.
Two sections of the order appear critical to its interpretation.
Section 2 of the circular, quoted above, states clearly that NGOs must terminate the employment of “all the Aliens working with them,” whereas Section 3 appears to suggest that they must terminate only those foreigners working in the listed positions.
Reached by telephone on Monday, Minister Ngor Kolong declined to clarify the matter, telling Radio Tamazuj he would not be ready to make a statement until tomorrow.
Likewise, Thomas Tombe Loro, Acting Director General in the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, said he was not presently able to speak about the matter.
However, the circular’s section 1 (b) titles the order “Ministerial Circular Prohibiting and regulating the Service and Employment of Aliens in Certain Positions in the private Sector in South Sudan,” again suggesting that the ban applies only to listed positions.
The circular does not define “Executive Director.”
The order comes as the National Assembly considers an NGO bill that will place humanitarian aid under the oversight of security officials and other government personnel serving on an “NGO Coordination Board.”
Humanitarian organizations are yet to make any public statement on the circular. A UN agency official confirmed to Radio Tamazuj that they were aware of the matter.
Aid operations have become increasingly complex in South Sudan since December 2013 when parts of the country came under the control of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO).
SPLM-Juba, the ruling party, remains in control of the South Sudanese capital and the national institutions based there. The labour minister is a member of this warring party.
In Juba, Bentiu, Malakal, and a number of other towns controlled by SPLM-Juba, United Nations peacekeepers are protecting close to 100,000 people who fled from ethnically targeted violence.
These vulnerable populations have been provided medical aid, food, nutritional care and other services by international aid organizations. Some of these aid groups have warned of the possibility of ‘famine’ in rural parts of South Sudan in late 2014 or early 2015, including in some areas under the control of SPLM-IO.
The presidency, however, issued an order in July warning humanitarian organizations not to publish ‘unilateral’ statements on the food and nutrition situation in the country “outside the political endorsement” of the presidency.
File photo: Thousands of people wait for food at an airdrop in Leer, a town in South Sudan’s Unity State under the control of SPLM-IO (Nichole Sobecki / AFP)
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