South Sudan soldiers abandon uniform to venture into business


JUBA, Oct. 6 — Abraham Lual Mayar, a veteran South Sudanese
soldier, decided to quit the disciplined forces sighting meager perks that
confined him to poverty for many years.

Despite his sterling performance in the military, Mayar felt that his
sacrifices were not appreciated and after soul-searching, he opted for a
civilian life that could open new opportunities to the ambitious soldier.
During a recent interview with Xinhua, the 38-year-old said he has never
regretted the decision to quit the army and is now contented in his new
life as an entrepreneur where a financial windfall is guaranteed. “My
monthly salary was too meager and could not sustain me and my family. I
survived on loans that weighed down on my savings and sometimes it was hard
to meet basic obligations like feeding and educating my children,” said
Mayar.

South Sudan soldiers are most affected by salary delays even as the
administration in Juba announced 300 million U.S. dollars in the 2017/2018
fiscal to honor the monthly pay. Mayar revealed that as a sergeant he used
to earn an equivalent of 20 dollars amid economic volatility in the
country. The ex-soldier joined the army in 2005 before South Sudan seceded
from Khartoum after having graduated from polytechnic in Uganda as an
engineer with basic knowledge in information technology where he got
trained in handling artillery by Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). He
said that he opened his first business initiative in Yei River State in
western part of the country near the border with Uganda and the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC) before the renewed clashes of July 2016. “I
rented a small shop and started computer programming to earn daily wages.
Currently, I’m involved in installing applications to personal computers,”
said Mayar. He told Xinhua he started to pick up well with the business
after the renewed clashes that erupted in July 2016 nearly ended his
venture. He later fled Yei to Juba where he ventured into hotel
business. “My previous business helped me buy a refrigerator and open a
cafeteria in Juba. Currently, I sell all types of juice, fresh milk and
clean drinking water at affordable prices. With this business I earn 350
dollars per month,” Mayar told Xinhua. He revealed he has employed two
women that now earn 50 dollars every month to help meet the needs of their
families.

John Aleu, a former Military Intelligence (MI) personnel, told Xinhua that
government employees quit their jobs due to low salary which they said
cannot meet their daily needs. “I left my job as a security officer and
later opened a small business to sustain my life after discovering that
being in uniform is not helping,” Aleu told Xinhua. He graduated from Juba
University with a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication. He said he
joined the army to serve the nation diligently, but unfortunately could not
see his ambition come true due to lack of support from the government. A
spot-check by Xinhua revealed that most of the current small businesses
being run around the city is either owned by some of the army deserters or
civil servants that resigned from their jobs due to low morale as a result
of financial needs. The dire economic situation in the country has
negatively affected the ability of the government to honor its debts, pay
salaries, provide services and cater for emergency support for communities
affected by conflict, thus exacerbating the already grave humanitarian
situation.South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, became independent from
Sudan in 2011 and since December 2013, it has been mired in turmoil. – XINHUA