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South Sudan denies big military spending despite famine
JUBA, South Sudan: South Sudanese government has denied it is spending more than 60 percent of its revenues on buying weapons to fight rebellion and dissidents instead of using it to help people facing starvation.
In remarks made to Anadolu Agency Friday, Information Minister Michael Makuei said his government’s constitutional responsibility is to protect the country and it has the right to arm itself.
“I am not aware of any high military spending or arms to have been bought by the government because we do not have funds," Makuei said.
South Sudan solely depends on oil revenue -- 98 percent -- of which the gross oil income is $3.38 billion.
After deducting $884 million in payments to Sudan for usage of its pipeline and other fees, and another deduction of $781 million repayments of loan to donors and international financiers, Juba is left with only $1.715 billion from oil revenues, which is now alleged to be spent on the military.
In the 2016-2017 annual fiscal year budget allocation, security sector continues to lead, despite government officials claiming commitment to implementing the peace agreement.
The fiscal draft budget shows an estimated 22.3 billion South Sudanese pounds ($220 million), out of which 11.045 billion pounds ($11 million) goes to military operations.
“Is this [what the] UN calls huge spending? And, even if the country has money to purchase weapons, then there is no country that does not protect its territorial borders either from external or internal aggression,” the minister said.
The government's top spokesman's comments came following allegations in a UN report on Friday that accused the South Sudanese government of boosting its forces using millions of dollars from oil sales, blaming it for the country’s famine.
UN Sanctions monitors said 98 percent of South Sudan revenues come from oil sales; however, half of the budget or more is devoted to security.
"Despite the scale and scope of the political, humanitarian, and economic crises, the panel continues to uncover evidence of the ongoing procurement of weapons by the ... Government for the SPLA [South Sudanese army], the National Security Service, and other associated forces and militias," the UN report alleged.
The UN added the country’s revenue from oil sales totaled $243 million between March and October 2016.
“The bulk of evidence suggests that famine is a result from protracted conflict and in particular, the cumulative toll of military operations undertaken by the Sudan People Liberation Movement and Army-SPLM/A in Government in southern Unity state, denial of access of humanitarian aid and population displacement resulting from the war,” the report said.
The minister rejected the report. “We have been facing difficulties as the government, the current economic difficulties the country is facing. We are experiencing severe inflation because of the civil war and we don’t’ know where UN said we are getting money to buy weapons,” he added.
An independent report released in April 2015 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute revealed a steady rise in South Sudan’s military spending from $982 million in 2013 to $1.08 billion in 2014, the African region’s biggest spender. This means the fledgling nation spent its net oil revenue on the military.
Last month, the United Nations declared a famine in some parts of the world’s youngest nation, where nearly half of its 12 million population -- some 5.5 million people -- face mass hunger.