UN threatens to reduce humanitarian assistance to South Sudan

Juba, South Sudan — South Sudanese farmers who have relied on United Nations agencies operating in that country now say they are afraid of losing a ready market for their produce should the U.N. follow through on its threat to scale down operations in the world’s youngest nation. This comes after the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom expressed concerns about Juba’s decision to impose taxes on some commodities purchased by the U.N.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan — UNMISS — has already scaled down its security operations in South Sudan.

U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General in South Sudan Nicholas Haysom says Juba’s move to enforce taxes on various services offered by the U.N. in South Sudan will lead to severe consequences, including cuts in aid and other humanitarian support.

“Our concern is that the authorities have blocked our fuel, and we are unable to implement our mandate, including important elements, which affect and support South Sudanese — including the delivery of aid and food to vulnerable communities,” he said.

A joint statement by the United States, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom accused Juba of imposing taxes on a range of approvals and fees, contrary to international practice and to South Sudanese laws. These include the E-Petroleum Accreditation Permit, customs charges, the electronic cargo tracking note, the laboratory test on food rations, and the security escort fee.

The U.N. warns this move has forced them to scale down operations in South Sudan, including security patrols, as a direct response to the action.

“We have reached an agreement that the blocking of these vehicles is unlawful, and that they should be released as soon as possible,” Haysom said.

He warned that the ripple effect will be felt far and wide. So far, more than 60-thousand people are losing access to health services after the U.N. stopped airdrop exercises.

South Sudan relies heavily on the U.N. for humanitarian aid.

Amos Valerio is the chairperson of the Gitikiri farmer cooperative in Western Equatoria state that supports local farmers by connecting them with a ready market. One of their key markets is the World Food Program, which has been buying farm produce from local farmers and then taking this food to millions of South Sudanese in refugee camps across the country.

“The fear we have right now is that if the U.N. withdraws from South Sudan, we will not have any partner again,” Valerio said. “We encourage the government to restore the U.N. to continue helping farmers and to continue with their activities in South Sudan.”

Louise Wilson Mbiro, a farmer from Gitikiri Boma in Western Equatoria state, said she fears losing her biggest buyer of maize seeds.

If the WFP leaves, farmers will not be able to sell the products they have already produced and those they were going to produce, she said, adding that the WFP’s presence and support encouraged farmers to produce more. 

Before the WFP started buying their seeds, Mbiro said life was very difficult, and she could only sell one kilogram of maize at 5,000 South Sudanese pounds, which was not helping at all.

But when WFP came, she said farmers could sell all their products at once, and get money in bulk, which was something that never used to happen. Currently, Mbiro said, she can sell 35 bags, and make 1 million South Sudanese pounds.

Albino Akol Atak, South Sudan’s minister of humanitarian assistance and disaster management, said the government is trying to find a way to remove the taxes on the U.N. 

“We are considering that as the contribution of [the] government of South Sudan to what they [the U.N.] are doing is exempt. Their operations including importation of some humanitarian asserts and any other equipment that are to be used to deliver services to the people of South Sudan.”

Akol Atak said the exemption is part of the government’s contribution to humanitarian assistance to its people. 

But the U.N. says its fuel trucks are still being held up at various depots and the border.

Unless the vehicles are released, Haysom said in a statement, the U.N. will stop most of its activities in South Sudan, including the support for vulnerable communities like refugees.

The U.N. currently plays a leading role in ensuring stability in South Sudan as the country gears up for its first-ever general election in December.

your ad here

leave a reply: