A group of Ugandan traders operating in Juba, have given the government of South Sudan a 16-day ultimatum to pay more than Shs123 billion ($49.9million) it owes them or they mobilise others to join them in a strike.
The group, consisting of nine local companies and individuals, say the money accrued from hundreds of tonnes of grains they had supplied to the South Sudan government.
According to the chairman Uganda South Sudan Grain Traders and Suppliers Association, Mr Chris Kaijuka, several attempts to have their money paid have been unsuccessful.
However, Mr James Mutende, the State Minister for Industry, told journalists at Parliament last week that the negotiations had been ongoing before the civil war and a committee set up by the two countries to verify the traders’ claims.
“We have been engaging with the South Sudan government for a while through the Foreign Affairs, trade and Finance ministries to do verification of the contracts. When the war broke out, the negotiations were suspended but as soon as order returns, we shall resume the process,” Mr Mutende explained.
The South Sudan government last paid about Shs37 billion in 2010 as advance settlement to the traders and the traders worried on whether the balance will be paid.
The minister, however, assured them that the South Sudan government committed itself to clear the arrears. He also feigned ignorance on the looming strike, instead pleading with the traders to remain calm until the negotiations resume. “Please be patient. We are also affected by this impasse because government is losing finances but it is in the best interests of the traders to hold on until peace returns,” Mr Mutende said.