The East African Community should not suspend Juba over debt, but instead give it more time to remit its dues, a South Sudanese minister has said.
South Sudan has been having financial problems but it is working on meeting its obligations, the Minister for Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs Paul Mayom added.
In an interview with the East African on Thursday on the sidelines of the First China-Africa Trade Expo in Changsha, the capital of central China’s Hunan province, the minister said Juba was committed to pay bloc’s annual contributions.
“The government of South Sudan has always put plans in place to meet its EAC obligations but all these need time to deliver. We have problems with funding though the matter is now with the Ministry of Finance. Therefore, other EAC members and the Assembly should be patient with us,” Mr Mayom said.
“It would not be prudent to say that since you Juba has not paid; we will sanction or suspend you…What I know is that we are going to meet our commitments and continue to discharge our responsibilities as a member state that is devoted to pursuing the unity of the people of East Africa.”
South Sudan’s financial problems has forced it to engage in a barter trade by giving Chinese firms 30,000 barrels of oil per day in exchange for the construction of roads.
The EAC treaty Article 146 says that the summit may suspend a member state from taking part in the activities of the community if it fails to observe and fulfil the fundamental principles and objectives of the treaty, including failure to meet financial commitments within a period of 18 months.
Each EAC member state is required to pay $8 million annually. South Sudan, which joined the bloc on September 5, 2016, has not remitted most of its dues, accruing a debt of at least $27 million.
With member states’ delays in remitting their contributions for the 2018/19 budget, which stood at $99.7 million, the bloc has been operating with a deficit that could result in the stalling or slowing down of some EAC activities.
While tabling the 2019/20 budgetary estimates before East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) on June 19, 2019, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Co-operation Damas Ndumbaro said the bloc expects to streamline and consolidate operational systems to achieve the desired level of efficiency, accountability and value for money.