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Dr. Lomuro denies allegations govt signed $13 billion UAE loan deal

Authors: Chany Ninrew | Obaj Okuj | Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Cabinet Minister Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro speaks to the media in Juba. | Photo: FVP Press Unit/Facebook

The National Minister of Cabinet Affairs has dismissed allegations that the government received a $5.5 billion loan from the United Arab Emirates as part of an agreement that would supply the gulf country with crude oil for 20 years.

Martin Elia Lomuro was addressing online allegations about a payment thought to be included in a 13-billion-dollar deal negotiated in December 2023, as shown in a leaked UN document.

First Deputy Speaker Oyet Nathaniel queried Minister Lomuro to clarify the alleged agreement that was set to enable the government to acquire the multi-billion-dollar loan from a UAE company.

Oyet underscored that the parliament is not against any government plan to bail itself out of financial difficulties, but pointed out that such processes must be done with the approval of parliament to ensure accountability.

“Right Honorable Speaker, the loans we have been hearing on social media – 12.9 billion, and I am also seeing the signature of the former minister of finance,” he started.

“We are not against the government bailing itself out in time of financial difficulties, but we need the right procedures. If you want to contract loans, come to the parliament to approve it.”

“We can contract any loan, plan it, including paying for government sanctions, salaries and development and so on. We don’t want any loan planned out there, and it is being done outside the parliament, outside the budget without accountability.”

In response, Minister Lomuro dismissed the reports as unverifiable, arguing that it is even illegal to bring what he terms as social media allegations to the attention of the parliament.

“Madam Speaker, I am a bit alarmed that our Deputy Speaker could collect information on social media that there is a loan of 5.5 billion. Madam Speaker, this is a house of the people,” he stated.

Dr. Lomuro warned that discussion about the alleged payment could lead to a court case without explaining how.

“You cannot bring information on social media and reveal it here. Social media information by law is unverifiable, is illegal and can cost somebody a court case.”

Following the minister’s statement, Honorable Oyet took the floor again to explain that the loan deal must not be treated as a social media allegation, because former finance minister Bak Barnaba spoke on record about the deal.

In response, Minister Lomuro then denied that the national cabinet has any knowledge about the loans agreement.

He added that if there was any deal, it must have been the former minister’s individual action and not on behave of the government.

“Madam Speaker, a loan is processed through a cabinet. I do not have a memo; I have no resolution talking about a loan.”

“If the former minister of finance talked about a loan, that is individual basis. Otherwise there is no loans, there is no resolution and there is no memo about the loan.”

In April 2024, a leaked document showed that South Sudan has agreed with a United Arab Emirates firm to lend the country about 12.9 billion US dollars in exchange for crude oil payment in the next 20 years.

The agreement, seen in a report of the UN Security Council’s panel of experts, was first published by the Bloomberg news agency, but it is yet to be officially released to the public.

Negotiated on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit in Dubai, the deal is said to be nearly double the GDP of South Sudan and about five times the country’s current external debt of 2.5 billion US dollars.

A member of the national legislative assembly previously called on the cabinet to come clean in the alleged agreement between the Ministry of Finance and the foreign company.

 

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