The Eastern Equatoria State Governor Louis Lobong Lojore has said he has noted with concern the anxiety of foreign nationals residing and doing business in the state over their safety during the forthcoming referendum vote.
He has constantly urged them to remain calm and has appealed to them not to close their businesses for fear as their services are highly needed not only in the state but also across South Sudan.
“I appeal to all foreigners and our northern brothers and sisters doing business in this state to continue being calm during and after the voting period”, said the Governor.
Last month, the State Deputy Governor Nartisio Loluke Manir held a meeting with foreigners from neighbouring countries and assured them of enough security prior to, during and after the referendum.
The GoSSS Minister of Peace and CPA Implementation Pagan Amum has also urged foreigners residing in South Sudan to carry on with their activities despite alleged tensions between the South and North as their services are highly needed in the semi-autonomous region.
He said the Government of Southern Sudan is committed to peace and hence assured the foreigners of enough security during the referendum period.
Reports indicate that foreign nationals from neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Eritrea, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as those from Northern Sudan are living in fear and are contemplating shutting their businesses as the referendum approaches.
This is despite the regional and state governments’ consistent appeals and assurance of the region’s stability and protection of foreigners and northerners over the last few months ahead of the January referendum.
A recent survey carried out by a Juba – based newspaper at Customs and Konyo Konyo markets in the South Sudanese capital, Juba revealed that many foreigners are closing their businesses for fear of violence during the referendum because of the deep-seated mistrust between the North and the South.
The survey further adds that as a result, prices of goods and services in the two markets have shot up due to high demand and low supply.
“There is uncertainty about the whole referendum. No more goods are coming into South Sudan and we are only selling stocks in stores”, said a Ugandan trader at Jebel Market, Elitre Natal.
A Northern trader at Konyo Konyo Abdu Ali said traders have lost interest in doing business following the frosty relations between the North and South.
“The relationship between the north and the south is somehow strained, which has discouraged us from investing more money here”, he said.
Ali added that he is planning to leave the market by mid- December if talks between SPLM and NCP over Abyei and other pending issues are not amicably resolved on time.