The South Sudanese parliament has passed a Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) bill that limits foreign-aid workers in the country, where a civil war has been ongoing since 2013. According to the draft law, no more than a fifth foreign aid workers will be allowed to work in the country and at least 80% of the staff employed by NGOs will have to be South Sudanese.
The bill would still have to be signed into law by President Salva Kiir. Some NGOs have expressed concern over the bill, fearing that it could hinder humanitarian work in the country, where four million people are facing food insecurity and at least two million have been displaced.
Aid agencies are concerned over a clause that would punish any 'false statement' about the bill with a 50,000 South Sudan-pound ($8,186; £5,631) fine, AFP said. Early in January, justice minister Paulino Wanawilla denied the law was designed to target specific humanitarian organisations in the country.
"We also have our reservation as government because sometimes the NGOs concentrate doing the same thing in the same area, and when you tell them to diversify their services – like the health services - they say 'No', " he was quoted by the Sudan Tribune as saying. "You cannot operate in a country under your own condition. Now, there will be a registrar appointed by SSRRC [South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission], who will be able to register all the NGOs operating in South Sudan under the NGOs bill without exception."
What caused the conflict?
In November 2013, Kiir – from the Dinka ethnic group – dismissed the then vice-president Riek Machar – from the Nuer group – and his cabinet. The dismissal followed Kiir's decision to replace members of the army and government following rumours of a possible coup. Kiir also sparked outrage after dismissing all the main organs of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement arguing that their time in office had expired.
Tensions further escalated when Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup in December 2013. The accusations sparked violence in the country, where factions loyal to either Kiir or Machar engaged in tit-for-tat violence throughout villages.
Ethnic-related violence also started to spread with militia groups carrying out attacks in villages and areas known to be inhabited by either Dinka or Nuer. More than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict so far amid allegations of crimes against humanity committed by both sides including extrajudicial killings, abductions, rape, torture and the use of child soldiers.
Two warring sides have signed several peace deals, the latest of which was signed in the capital Juba in August 2015. However, violence continues, and a January report from the African Union blamed both leaders of warring sides for the ongoing unrest.