Nine hotels in South Sudan’s capital Juba have given the Revitalized Unity Government five days to pay them over $10 million accrued for accommodating delegates from 2019 to date.
In a joint letter addressed to the National Transitional Committee – a body tasked to oversee the implementation of the 2018 peace agreement – the hotel managements threatened to throw out the peace delegates if their arrears are not settled in five days.
“In reference letter to our final notice letters dated November 2nd and 3rd 2020 respectively regarding hotels’ arrears, it very clear that our hotels/apartments offices had clearly informed your National Transitional Committee chairperson office on the demands of accommodation bills that had accrued and still accrue to over $10 million without payment.
“It seems your office is not responding to our requests for settlement of our past due to account from 2019 to the present date. Therefore, we strongly urge your honourable office to settle our accounts as soon as possible so that we are able to clear our businesses responsibilities in the New Year 2021,” reads the joint statement.
When contacted for comment, Cabinet Affairs Minister Dr Martin Elia, who is also the secretary of the National Transitional Committee, said, “The letter has not reached our office and I don't talk about things that are on social media.”
Edmund Yakani, who heads Community Empowerment for Progress Organization – a peacebuilding and civic education advocacy organization, said he is worried about how Treasury funds are being used.
“This amount of money is alarming and disturbing. We have been calling on these politicians to leave hotels and go to their homes but all in vain. These monies should have been used for the graduation of unified forces, purchase of drugs, the establishment of the unity government, and payment of civil servants. Are you really serious politicians?
“This tells us that you are interested in meeting your interests, [rather] than that of civilians. It also tells [us] that your level of trust and confidence in the agreement is very low. With all this cash and you are saying we don’t have money to implement the agreement and asking for donations from foreign countries,” Yakani stressed.
Mr Yakani urged the presidency to immediately address the matter by relocating the peace delegates to public houses.
In May last year, the African Union echoed calls by the civil society for government and opposition officials to stop spending a lot of money on hotel accommodations.
Civil society organizations in South Sudan said the government was spending a lot of money paying hotel bills for individual leaders, their bodyguards and relatives at the expense of delivering service to the general population.
The African Union stressed that those funds should be redirected to the implementation of the revitalised peace agreement.
Ambassador Joram Biswaro, who heads the AU Mission to South Sudan, said spending such an amount of money on the luxury of individual leaders is like buying their political will.
He added that those leaders should vacate the hotels and return to their homes. He added that they should also use government-owned vehicles instead of private luxury cars.