South Sudan cannot issue passports after failing to pay its bills to German tech firm

Posted: November 24, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in History, Junub Sudan, Press Release

Deputy Finance Minister Mou Ambrose Thiik told Reuters on Tuesday that the government would make the payment early next week. “We are working on it,” he said.

The world’s youngest nation, which gained independence in 2011, is now unable to issue passports nor national identification cards.

The company, whose website says it specialises in smart card and ePassport technology, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters on Friday.

An investigation last year by the U.S. group Sentry found South Sudan’s leaders and their families have profited from the conflict, amassing wealth, at times illegally.

At the national passports and immigration office in the capital Juba, a notice read: “Our technical team is working to solve the problem and will notify next week. Sorry for inconveniences.”

An employee at the office said the server had been switched off since last week.

Thiik, the minister, said he believed the government had signed the contract with Muhlbauer without competent legal advice.

“Once we pay this we going to see how we are going to resolve this because we should not continue to pay for something that we should have owned”, he said, referring to the software used to process passport data.

In a sign of the fiscal strains on the government, President Salva Kiir on Friday said he had directed the foreign ministry to reduce the number of diplomats serving abroad, citing the state of the economy.

Staff in some embassies have not been paid for four to five months, said foreign affairs ministry spokesman Mawien Makol. (Additional reporting by Maria Sheahan in Berlin; Editing by Maggie Fick and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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