By Hanning Mbabazi
South Sudanese Legislators stormed out of a budget presentation by the finance minister on Thursday, with one citing frustrations over non-payment of salaries to civil servants and soldiers.
The disruption highlights the fragility of South Sudan’s government, months after the latest peace deal was signed to end a civil war often fought along ethnic lines. The conflict has killed 400,000 people, forced millions to flee their homes and crippled production of oil, the country’s main revenue earner.
“Our army is cutting down trees to make a living, our foreign missions … it is now almost one year we are unable to pay them,” lawmaker Elizabeth Adut shouted in parliament before the presentation of the budget for financial year 2019/20 began.
“Our teachers are not being paid. What are we doing? We are now presenting a new budget while our salaries are not being paid,” she continued.
Anthony Lino Makana, speaker of Parliament, adjourned the sitting until further notice after listening to the concerns raised by the lawmakers.
“So with this I hereby adjourned the meeting for today (Thursday) until I call for the assembly meeting,” Makana told legislators during the session in Juba.
South Sudan’s finance minister Salvator Garang Mabiordit was due to table a 208.15 billion South Sudanese pounds (1.3 billion U.S. dollars) budget for 2019/2020 financial year.
However, the lawmakers booed him, saying he could not table the budget when civil servants and army have not been paid for the last six months.
The lawmakers also demanded that the finance minister explain why the country has not met its annual obligation membership to the East African Community including other international treaties.
South Sudan is struggling to increase production of crude oil, months after the signing of the peace deal in September 2018. Currently it pumps about 175,000 barrels per day of crude oil.
The oil-rich nation in January earned 14.2 million dollars in non-oil revenue for the first time under the non-oil revenue mobilization and accountability project supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB).
The country depends heavily on oil revenue to finance its fiscal budget, but oil production was disrupted following outbreak of conflict in December 2013.