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South Sudan won’t expel foreign workers: minister

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People receive food aid and other vital supplies on January 8, 2014 from the International Committee of the Red Cross, in Minkaman, South Sudan/AFP

People receive food aid and other vital supplies on January 8, 2014 from the International Committee of the Red Cross, in Minkaman, South Sudan/AFP

JUBA, Sep 17 – The government in war-torn South Sudan said Wednesday it will not be expelling any foreign workers, reversing a policy announcement made the previous day that caused a storm of protests from aid agencies and neighbouring countries.

According to the United Nations, 1.3 million people have been displaced internally, and many of them are dependent on free food, shelter and healthcare delivered by a network of international aid groups.

Overturning an earlier order, Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin stressed the government “is not expelling any foreign worker in South Sudan.”

On Tuesday the government published a decree ordering NGOs, private companies, hotels, banks, insurance, telecommunications and petroleum companies “to notify all aliens working with them in all positions to cease working” within a month.

It said the resulting vacancies, ranging from receptionists to company directors, should be filled by government-vetted South Sudanese nationals. READ: S.Sudan bans all foreign workers, including aid staff.

But on Wednesday, Minister of Labour Ngor Kolong Ngor backpeddled to clarify the ministry’s circular, saying they were only “targeting low-level positions”.

South Sudan has been gripped by civil war for the past nine months, with aid agencies warning that the world’s youngest nation is on the brink of a man-made famine.

“I can assure the fellow Kenyans in this country, not only Kenyans alone but Ugandans, Eritreans, Ethiopians and all the other neighbouring countries who are here, they are all very much welcome to this country,” Benjamin added.

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