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South Sudan to revoke order to expel foreign workers: report

17 September 2014, 15:44

Nairobi - South Sudan's government has announced it will revoke a controversial move to expel foreign workers, a Kenyan diplomat was quoted as saying Wednesday following protests from neighbouring countries and aid agencies.

The Daily Nation newspaper said Kenya's ambassador to Juba met South Sudan's Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin and was told that the controversial order, which was published on Tuesday, would be "recalled".

The ambassador, Cleland Leshore, said he was told "they did not actually intend to chase away foreign nationals working here."

"What they wanted to do is appeal to companies to give priority to South Sudan. They have said they are going to correct that on Wednesday," he told the Daily Nation.

In South Sudan's capital Juba, the foreign ministry said it would be holding a news conference later Wednesday to address the issue, but several government officials have already been distancing themselves from the decree.

Read also: S.Sudan bans foreign workers despite looming famine

On Tuesday the government ordered "all non-governmental organisations, private companies, banks, insurance companies, telecommunication companies, petroleum companies, hotels and lodges working in South Sudan... to notify all aliens working with them in all positions to cease working" within a month.

It said the resulting vacancies, ranging from receptionists to company directors, should be filled by government-vetted South Sudanese nationals.

Purportedly designed to "protect the rights and interests of the people of South Sudan", the move comes nine months into a brutal civil war that aid agencies say has pushed the world's youngest nation to the brink of a manmade famine.

Tens of thousands of skilled workers from regional neighbours including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda are in the country, and together they run South Sudan's mobile telephone network, banking sector, upstream oil activities, hotels and other key infrastructure.

South Sudan itself suffers from a major shortage of skilled workers, with only around a quarter of the population able to read and write.

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