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Unemployment drives South Sudan political violence, analysts say

21 July 2016, 19:07

Nairobi (Xinhua) -- South Sudan's Abraham Malut graduated in 2012 after having acquired a degree in finance and accounting at the University of Juba.

However, the 32-year-old still lacks a job despite adding a diploma in information technology to his budding resume.

"I have tried to look for a job but failed. Most people here employ only their close relatives and friends, "Malut told Xinhua in an interview on Thursday. Malut, with frustration by the unsuccessful chase for a job has retreated to his home in Jonglei state.

South Sudan became independent in 2011, marking the end of one of the longest conflicts in recent sub-Saharan African history and ushering in hopes of a more peaceful and prosperous future for its citizens.

However, this optimism was punctured by the onset of internal conflict in December 2013 and the resumption of conflict in July despite the warring parties have signed the August peace agreement to end more than two years of civil conflict.

The country is faced with a worsening humanitarian crisis, political and economic fragility after conflict displaced more than 2.3 million people, and in addition about 36,000 have been displaced in Juba alone after recent fighting.

And despite oil resource contributing 98 percent of revenue to the fiscal budget, subsistence agriculture remains the dominant sector for household livelihoods.

About 78 percent of the households in South Sudan derive their livelihood from agriculture. There are few alternative sources of employment as the formal sectors are yet to develop.

Another unemployed youth, Lodule Bosco, 28 told Xinhua he is a trained teacher but due to low wages, he abandoned teaching and resorted to riding commercial motor cycle (boda boda) on the streets of Juba to fend for his young family.

He disclosed that there are many professional teachers and police officers who have abandoned duty for commercial motor cycle business, due to meager pay that often delays for months.

Lodule said his story has epitomized the massive unemployment in a country that can barely feed its 12 million people, with goods ranging from tomatoes, onions, vegetables to grains still being imported from East African countries of Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia.

"There are teachers, police officers I know who have abandoned their duties to do boda boda business. If there is capital one can begin a business," he explains.

It is the same case with Thomas Benedicto, 30, who is a qualified electrician but opted to ride commercial motorcycle due to failure to land his dream job, after he applied several times for jobs advertised by Non-Governmental Organizations in Juba.

He says he has managed to fend for his family due to the lucrative business but he still hopes to get chance to practice his profession.

In the aftermath of conflict, many big foreign owned companies that employed big number of South Sudanese like South African brewer, SABMiller have shut down operations and Kenyan banks like KCB, Equity and mobile telecom giant MTN have downsized staff due to economic hardship, leaving many nationals out of jobs.

Edmund Yakani, a policy analyst with Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, told Xinhua that unemployment is a public policy and structural problem in the country that has been ignored for long by authorities with dire consequences on the economy.

"The government has no scheme of creating jobs. It has its own limited jobs that are institutional, designed by frameworks for state building. They have done less in creating jobs as they have failed to secure peace and security to attract investments," he explained.

He added that the government also doesn't have policies that are geared toward boosting entrepreneurship. And that being the largest consumer it leaves the private sector starved of capital to help create jobs.

"Instead of looking entirely at oil, we need to look at the agriculture, mining sector and you cannot invest in these without peace and security," he said.

Dr. James Alic Garang of the Ebony Center for Strategic Studies said the government should boost non-oil revenue collection through the newly enacted national revenue authority and also invoke departure tax at Juba airport to widen its shrinking revenue base.

"Unemployment is a danger in radicalizing youth, as they resort to gun culture as a way of survival. They start developing militia groups, cattle raiding and we have seen this in South Sudan," Yakani said.

Political analyst with Sudd Institute local think tank, Augustino Ting Mayai, said it's impossible to imagine a stable South Sudan amid massive youth unemployment.

"It is what has driven the majority of them to join various rebellions in the country side," he noted.

- Xinhua


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