S.Sudan's Kiir orders officials to repatriate funds

AFP , Monday 18 Jul 2011

Kiir launched the country's new currency and ordered government officials to repatriate funds, amid concerns about rampant corruption in the world's youngest nation

South Sudan's president Salva Kiir (Photo: Reuters)

"I want to sincerely advise all of you -- those of you who have money outside the country -- you bring your money back to this bank,"  South Sudan's President Salva Kiir said on Monday at the launch ceremony, at the Central Bank of South Sudan, attended by ministers and top government officials.

"I know people have very huge accounts outside the country. You repatriate this money," he added, in a short speech, before changing some of his personal cash into South Sudan pounds.

The exchange rate with the former currency, the Sudanese pound, has been fixed at one to one.

International Crisis Group warned in April, three months before the oil-producing country on July 9 declared formal independence from the north, about the potential for the large-scale diversion of state revenues for the personal enrichment of individuals in positions of power.

Each note of the country's new currency carries the head of John Garang, the revered rebel leader who died just months after signing the 2005 peace accord that ended Africa's longest-running conflict and paved the way for nationhood.

The central bank governor, Elijah Malok, said that Garang's image was a "mark of respect" for him and for the country's history.

Malok appealed to the governors of South Sudan's 10 states to work with a technical committee, composed of bank and finance ministry officials, to ensure the swiftest possible circulation of the new money, to avoid the country being flooded with old Sudanese pounds.

"The danger is... if we don't change quickly and it is still a legal tender in the north, a lot of money will pour in and destroy our economy," he said.

The Sudanese pound could be withdrawn from circulation within three months, he added.

Last week, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir said he would launch a new currency in the north "in the coming days" to replace the Sudanese pound, which has plunged in value over the past six months, mainly because of a surge in commodity prices and weak state finances.

The difficulty of swiftly circulating the south's new currency has been compounded by the ongoing rainy season, Malok said, with many of the chronically-underdeveloped country's roads impassable at this time of year.

Currency was one of a number of key outstanding issues that north and south failed to agree on prior to the country's partition.

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