Editorial: Juba down on its knees, reining in crazy dollar

By Deng Vanang

July 20, 2015 (SSNA) — With hope for peace either rising or dwindling, another dangerous weapon has additionally teamed up with the blazing and blaring guns’ barrels in South Sudan’s civil war. That is in dangerously falling money market, now driving Juba nuts while offering rebels some jaw-breaking laughter. 

Warning shots have already been aimed at the doomsayers predicting the collapse of terminally ill Juba government. First casualty on the list was Tony blazer, former UNMISS’ spokesman who secretly remarked an eminent economic death of the regime currently desperate for words of consolation than those that sink its ever depressing spirit.

War in this part of the world can be either way defending on where one happens to be.   A multi-facet adventure and equally laughing matter Africans reluctantly seem to regard as such.

For them, its declaration against enemy within or unfriendly neighbor is within just a split second unlike the first and the second worlds.

In those two worlds, the war takes energy and time consuming decision-making before it is declared. For as they know, war involves high costs requiring full pledged war council commissioned with the duty to weigh whether or not it is a viable option.

While in the heat of taking such decision, rockets may probably be whizzing overhead but this is not to upset the Council which level headedly and dutifully continues with focus in juggling pros and cons of choosing between an outright war and diplomacy.

Among the costs council considers if war becomes unavoidable option are the state of country’s economy and population to sustain it.

The kind of sophisticated weaponries come a long way in serious deliberation to wage and wind war or at least defend the country from being run over. How expensive these weapons are within the reach of healthy public purse. The longer the war may take and possible allies to come by to one’s aid should the enemy’s martial prowess proves overwhelming, are just few of even more unnamed costs.

These are not however issues to consider by African or third world’s leaders before war can be solemnly declared. Since even to their understanding on the contrary the war has its benefits, making it a highly sought for lucrative venture which offers an alibi for poor performance.

Its urge therefore, outweighs the quest for diplomacy that demands fairly fewer resources than an open warfare.

Why war is their most preferred option has several reasons than they can be numbered. To them, it covers up failures with several opportunities since it is cheaper to handle peoples’ expectations at war time than at peace’s time.

The war diverts attention of curious populace jittery about leaders’ poor performance. It more over gives the leaders the singularly ready-made answer to too many questions from the populace as to why they poorly perform. All resources being thrown to a war gamble is that ready – made answer from the publicly quizzed leaders.

As the war progresses, it makes them to loot more money unnoticed under the pretext of war costs which are hardly known to the populace already scattered and on the run helter- skelter.

Government’s top administrators in the war zones run a booming war economy, especially in pocketing the salaries of deserted or defected servicemen and civil servants without having to report to the headquarters.

Finally, war indefinitely extends term limits, a boon for unpopular leaders to continue staying and enjoying the cozy Presidential palaces. The strategy relieves them of pain against facing an otherwise hostile electorate, unpredictable elections and their grueling campaigns.

But for South Sudanese who try to slice a bit of good life while leaders have their taste of power after a long absence of these goodies, number one reason doesn’t apply for those still expecting salaries and incentives behind the battle lines of both divides.

War tolls may hardly pass by unnoticed with many families descending down from previously high ivory towers in which they lived to mud-walled shacks. While others might already have their mad rash to secure plastic sheeting spaces in sprawling camps in and outside the country.

Many sickly patients discharged from hospitals mid-way in deathbeds or to recovery. With school going children pulled out of their tenacious grip with future.

All the aforementioned pressing concerns point to one and the same reason that South Sudan’s economy is giving way to about two years’ old officially declared civil war with its many and so severe casualties now rising on and off the pitch.

That is towns are covered with sky billowing dust as fish ponds like pot holes dotted the dilapidated roads. Scarce public transport vehicles couldn’t longer meet the increasing influx into Juba of rural poor facing crashing poverty on the country’s economic margins.

Juba bathing in the heat of over 40 degrees Celsius daily is now a closer thing to hell since it is not less than an oven that fries and melts everything thrown on it.

While shrinking oil fields accounting to 98% of total country’s GDP give new headache to Juba government currently declared by both rebels and US a legal nullity.

This resultantly creates yawning deficit in the national budget that is struggling to foot monthly salaries of public officials, now worst hit unlike their peers in rebel ranks only expectant of the future.

Though may be finally paid out in periods far and between, these salaries in South Sudanese pounds when remitted to families living in East Africa or abroad face depreciating Dollar exchange rate now fluctuating between 1200 SSP and 1250 SSP per 100 Dollars.

These biting economic conditions are not only confined in South Sudan but also spilled over across regional borders.

They create multi-million Dollars deficits in the annual budgets of both Uganda and Sudan. Troops of these countries are accused of helping each other rebels with whoever eventually controls South Sudan bags the ultimate victory.

Investors too, both local and foreign, can’t continue with business as usual to serve the need of those still in government controlled areas due to the same worrying high exchange rate of Dollars government scarcely has. This is in despite of boosting its Dollar worthiness by raising visa’s value to hundred Dollars per a single entry into South Sudan.

Meaning, investors don’t have enough Dollars to buy goods and ferry in. And in event some become lucky in getting sufficiently enough, their goods bought in Dollars and later sold in Pounds, deliver more loss than required profit, making business and trade a lot more frustrating and unrewardingly meaningless.

This explains why most water and beverages industries are fatally knocked into a prolonged coma as the rest went down blow the violent waves of indefinite work boycotts, threatening a massive return to the already polluted Nile water for drinking, with knock on effects coming fast and furious on their way.

Such like water borne diseases and too many losing jobs with an alarming rapidity in business sector apart from making it do without salaries. The financial crunch may not even spare previously cash-proofed public sector, especially the army and foreign troops that have substantially offered a considerable lifeline to moribund Juba’s government.

But it is a situation victims have to put up with and not show slightest of complaint in order to safely avoid flying live bullets as the government publicly warned in the past of having no rubber ones to face off with would be street demonstrators.

Don’t ask what has become of Juba’s once pompously declared pet infrastructural projects now turned white elephant. That ‘’what question’’ is reflective of similar economic meltdown which has so far sent the government into frenzy of scrambling for options so as to turn the deadly rising tide.

One among many is sending one legion after another of well-armed battalions to the killing fields in Unity State so as to maintain momentum in the recaptured lucrative oil fields previously lost to the rebels.

Negotiating with East African countries on fixed currency rates with South Sudanese Pounds is one more alternative in a package of desperately touted economic measures.

That one measure is too good to be true since it may return the country to good old days when one South Sudanese pound was equivalent to 650 Uganda shillings or 25 Kenya shillings.

The move will equally make crazy demand for Dollars unnecessary. Though, its success will largely depend on benevolence of East African countries to accept economic loss so monumental for the good of their needy north eastern neighbor, South Sudan.

While South Sudan’s continuity to get enough South Sudanese Pounds to be able to exchange with East African currencies, as general money shortage in a near empty public coffer is increasingly alarming, remains to be seen.

Last option in worst case scenario, as public rumor has it, is the country diving under the auctioneer’s hammer for the highest bidder among the East African Community member states. That is in a sort of political union apparently to be reached between Juba and Kampala. The move may favorably work for the latter while becomes a loss of former’s sovereignty, hard earned just four years ago.

If the latter option proves truly successfulit will explain how hate has run so high between SPLM/A’s rival siblings proofed up on the laps of the perennial enemy tribes in South Sudan to the point of surrendering the country to a foreign pauper than make mutually accommodative peace with each other.

Deng Vanang, is a Journalist and Author of a book: South Sudan the Making of a Nation, a Journey from Ethnic Polities to Self-rule, State and Democracy. He can be reached [email protected].

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