S.Sudan hotels kick out politicians over US$50m in unpaid bills

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - JUBA, Feb 5 — Hundreds of South Sudanese politicians have been kicked out of hotels where they have been staying during the country’s peace process, over some US$50 million (RM203.6 million) in unpaid bills, a hotel association said late yesterday.

Some 300 politicians from different opposition groups, the ruling party and the military, have been staying in more than 18 hotels in Juba for several years.

South Sudan plunged into war in 2013, and after several failed peace deals, signed a new agreement in September 2018 which led to the formation of a unity government in February last year, which remains fragile.

Many of those involved in the talks, members of the National Pre-Transitional Committee (NPTC), had been outside of the country, while some claimed they needed to be accommodated in hotels for security reasons.

Last month the hotel industry issued two warnings to the government over the arrears, to no avail.

“So, we decided to come with a final conclusion to chase out all the customers from NPTC that is including politicians, generals, who came for the implementation of peace,” said Mel Garang, a representative of the South Sudan Hotel and Catering Association.  

He said some of the delegates had been in the hotels for three to four years.

“Last time, we were demanding more than US$10 million but now we realized some of the hotels were not with us and they are demanding up to US$50 million,” said Garang.

Hotel owners, already faced with the depreciating South Sudanese pound, say they can no longer afford to pay their suppliers due to the mounting debt.

Tut Kew Gatluak, NPTC chairman and security adviser to President Salva Kiir, said “we have paid some and some not yet.”

One of the delegates, thrown out of the hotel who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP the situation was embarassing.

“We feel so bad that we have been thrown out at the end and nobody is taking care of us from now on... and actually power has been cut off from our rooms and we do not have time to pack our belongings and even once we pack our belongings, where do we go?”

Despite the formation of the unity government, several key planks of the peace deal, such as the formation of a unified national army, have yet to be implemented.

Meanwhile the humanitarian situation remains dire, with 60 per cent of the population facing severe hunger this year, according to UN agencies, while violence has soared between rival communities, leaving hundreds dead. — AFP

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