By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
September 11, 2012 (BENTIU) - South Sudan’s Unity State told a student union representing students studying in Uganda on Monday that they will be unable to fund their activities until oil-production resumes replenishing government coffers.
- Simon Maguek Gai Speaker of the Unity State Assembly with Unity State Student Union Delegation in Bentiu town, 10 Sept. 2012 (ST)
Oil rich Unity State, like the rest of South Sudan stopped oil production in January as part of a transit fee dispute with Khartoum. Production is due to resume in two to four months after a deal was reached in August.
Deputy Governor Michael Chiengjiek Geay on Monday told the union that Unity State was in a financial crisis since the the shutdown of oil production. Around 98% of government income ha come from oi before the stoppage.
Geay, who is also Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement, made it clear to the student union that the state would be able to fund their activities until oil production resumes.
The student union was asking for $27,000 to run their four projects at various universities and colleges. Geay said that the proposals would be discussed at the next Unity State Council of Ministers meeting on Friday.
Unity State Student’s Union in Universities and Colleges in Uganda officially visited the Bentiu this week to submit four projects to state officials. These include, building a student hostel with a capacity for 150 students, a Magazine covering agricultural activities, encouraging girl’s education, and producing a fundraising calendar with portrait of governor, deputy governor, state cabinet ministers, union executives and graduates.
The delegation of students was headed by the president of Union, Simon Makuei and his chief advisor Haak Madol on Monday the teams voiced the grievance of students to graduation to the Unity State speaker, Simon Maguek Gai. Makuei who is the chairman of students union in Kampala explained that the biggest challenges facing graduates was employment opportunities.
Makuei added the recent employment policy in the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum, that all positions are advertised at a national level through the ministry, made it difficult for some graduates to apply for the jobs offered by oil companies.
The union president added that this process was open to abuse and corruption, arguing that companies should advertise their jobs without going through the oil ministry.
Makuei told the Unity State speaker at the Monday meeting that most graduates from Unity and others states had not been able to apply or the jobs in the oil industry that they are qualified for.
Unity State Speaker Gai said that this was the first time he had heard of the problem and agreed that the process should be made more fair and transparent. The speaker added that the country has been hit hard by the oil shutdown and South Sudan’s corruption.
South Sudanese officials often talk about being tough on corruption but no official has ever been prosecuted for stealing public funds in the young nation despite an estimated $4 billion going missing in the last six years.
The speaker said that he was not aware of oil employment policy but added that posts should be advertised publicly so that those with the right qualifications can apply.
The Unity State Union of Students from Universities and Colleges in Uganda appealed to the office of Deputy Governor for the government to do more to support students studying abroad.
Due the poor standard of education in South Sudan, those that can afford to study other East Africa countries such as Uganda and Kenya.
Geay added that Unity State was also suffering from Khartoum’s policy of closing the Sudan-South Sudan border last year as this had stunted trade and made it difficult for taxes to be levied from traders.
Unity and other states bordering Sudan have been forced to import goods all the way from South Sudan’s southern neighbours, however, recent heavy rains have blocked off roads, making it even more difficult.
“For some time we had some resources coming through Juba route into state but after recent rain season has blocked trading route it has been difficult for us”, said Geay.