Warrap links rising food prices to closure of North-South borders
By Ngor Arol Garang
August 30, 2011 (JUBA) – The government of Warrap State on Tuesday broke its silence on rising food prices in the area and said it was due to the closure of supply routes between Sudan and newly-independent South Sudan.
Southern Sudanese women carry sacks of food distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Juba on January 6, 2011 (AFP)
Makuc Makuc Ngongdit, a political advisor to state governor Nyandeng Malek, said in an interview with Sudan Tribune that food and prices of other basic commodities have increased as a result of the closure by authorities in Khartoum.
Until July 9 Sudan was a one country, with South Sudan running its own affairs in a semi-autonomous government, as part of a 2005 peace ending decades of war. A referendum earlier this year paved the way for the secession of South Sudan.
South Sudan’s independence has thrown up many challenges for the two nations. Many post-independence issues remain unresolved, including citizenship, border demarcation, wealth sharing and the status of the contested border region of Abyei.
While the African Union, through an established high level panel under former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki, is exerting efforts to resolve differences between the two countries, officials in the south have accused Khartoum of unilaterally closing borders and giving support to both political and armed opposition groups operating against the Juba-based government. Khartoum deny this.
“Prices of basic commodities have increased. This is because the government in Khartoum has closed the supplying routes not only for Warrap but for other neighbouring states at the borderline”, said Makuc.
He said that some in South Sudan fail to accept that the issue of soaring prices being a national issue. All South Sudan states that neighbour Sudan; Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Western Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile state have suffered, he said.
The goods sold in the markets in these states come from North Sudan and are expensive because of transport and other costs, he explained
Around 358, mostly returnees from North Sudan, are reported to have died from hunger in Warrap state. Governor Malek and other high ranking officials in her administration were quick to deny this and attributed the cause of death to lack of adequate medical supplies in the area.
The state assembly has tasked a parliamentary committee to investigate the cause of the deaths.
Reverend Amet Amet Kuol, the chairperson of the state’s peace and reconciliation committee in an interview with Sudan Tribune last week said representatives of the victims showed his committee more than 35 graves of people reported to have died of hunger. He said more graves were shown to an executive committee appointed by the state administration.
But the senior government official who is also Secretary General of the South Sudan’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the state, categorically refuted these reports claiming the prevalence of hunger in the area was “political”.
Makuc described security situation in the area as “calm and normal”.
“Generally, the security situation as of now is relatively calm and normal. The issue of cattle rustling and sectional fights between the two clans of Luackoth and Akok which you may have heard in Tonj East County has been resolved”, said Makuc.
He said a company of the South Sudan army (SPLA) has been deployed to the area. “There is no any other problem there. Law and order has been restored by the deployment of the SPLA. The government is now looking for culprits”, he said.
He appealed for cooperation between the executive and the legislative branches of the state’s administration, saying they need to work together to deliver basic service to the electorate, with a unified development policy and programs.
Kuac Rou Mawien, a resident of Kuacjok, capital of Warrap State, in a separate telephone interview with Sudan Tribune confirmed the increase in prices in basic commodities in the area.
“The market is generally expensive,” he said.
“Food commodities are very, very expensive. All the traders have raised up, doubling charges which ordinary people do not afford”, said Mawien complaining that other basic commodities are hardly affordable because of high demand.
“There are days like yesterday I was in the market hunting for sorghum without success. The prices are constantly climbing up. This was why I failed to get [some sorghum] not because they are not available. It was because I was not able to afford selling prices. The money I had was less than the selling price”, he explained.