By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
November 19, 2012 (KAMPALA) - The parliament of South Sudan’s Unity State reopened on Monday for its fourth secession of the year following a five month closure which began in June.
- Unity State Governor Taban Deng Gai (centre) and Speaker of the Unity State Legislative Assembly, Simon Maguek Gai (right), 27 October 2011 (ST)
The reopening of the state legislative assembly was delayed from 1 October due to the absence of Governor Taban Deng Gai, who was on a foreign trip from August until 10 November. At the assembly, the Governor said that he hoped MPs had made good use of the recess to visit their areas and attend to constituency matters.
Many citizens in South Sudan complain that their elected officials do not take the time to visit the areas they represent. Okello Lobang, a student at Makerere University, told Sudan Tribune that South Sudan members of parliament rarely go to assess the needs of communities at a local level.
The Speaker of the Unity State parliament, Simon Maguek Gai, told Sudan Tribune that MPs would be able to start their normal duties from Monday.
In a phone interview, Speaker Gai asked citizens to remain calm and peaceful, despite the challenges facing the state including current austerity measures due to South Sudan’s oil dispute with Sudan. The state’s Deputy Governor, Michael Chieng Jiek Geay, announced last month that all government employees would receive a 25% pay cut.
The reduction of government salaries has upset many staff, with some employees going on strike, claiming that the had government failed to convince them that their wages had been cut for a proper reason.
According to the Deputy Governor, Michael Chiengjiek Geay, the decision taken by the council of ministers to cut off 25% of all civil servant salaries is part of austerity measures in South Sudan as the state needs to cut spending by 30-40%.
The deputy governor said that the cut will be reversed when the country resumes oil production. The two sides need to resolve how to implement the security section of a deal signed in Addis Ababa in September over issues relating to South Sudan’s independence last year before South Sudan can begin exporting its crude through the north.
Unity State is also suffering from severe flooding, which is much worse than in previous years and has displaced thousands of people. Payinjiar and Mayiandit counties have been worst aaffected.
The government is working hard, the Speaker said, to contact NGO’s to deliver food aid to flood victims in areas heavily affected. In Payinjiar north, harvests have been completely destroyed, he said, by the level of flooding in June.
Eight out of Unity States’ nine counties have experienced flooding, with a total of 8,826 people affected, according to the United Nations.