JETLINK THE FIRST TO PULL THE PLUG ON JUBA
The air is beginning to get thin for South Sudan, as far as transactions in hard currency are concerned as news are just breaking that effective immediately, Jetlink, one of Kenya’s leading private airlines, will halt all operations to and from the South Sudan capital as they got frustrated by officials and red tape in transferring their ticket earnings back to Kenya, now standing at over 2 million US Dollars according to a source in Juba. Despite international conventions, which permit airlines to repatriate their ticket sales proceeds in hard currency to their home offices, in this case in Kenya, South Sudan has found itself in no position to live up to such obligations, since they cut oil sales over massive theft of their export crude oil in Port Sudan and added hostile action from neighbours Khartoum Sudan over the disputed border states of Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
This impacted over 96 percent of all revenues coming into the coffers of the government in Juba and caused unprecedented austerity measures, leading to a massive devaluation of the currency and the creation of a parallel black currency market. While oil production is now gradually resuming on the Southern Sudanese oilfields, cash receipts will be some time away and there is a huge backlog of demand for hard currency to be dealt with, prompting Jetlink to halt flights until they have been paid their dues in full.
Kenyan banks in South Sudan have equally expressed their frustration with the restrictive regime on being given access to foreign exchange, a situation which has also caused raised eyebrows in Arusha at the East African Community headquarters. South Sudan is presently trying to join the trade block but has so far failed to convince several missions of Secretariat and EAC member states that they are ready to meet their obligations and have harmonized their trade, regulatory and legislative regimes to those in place across the EAC, free currency trading being a key among them.
Main beneficiary of Jetlink’s withdrawal will be Kenya’s national airline Kenya Airways, currently operating two flights a day between Nairobi and Juba, and regular South Sudan bound passengers have already been cautioned by travel agents that there may be a shortage of seats on the route starting from this morning.
Added a Nairobi based aviation source: ‘The only ones with deep pockets to sustain such sort of thing is Kenya Airways. After Jetlink is suspending flights from tomorrow [sic today, 16th November] they are the only credible alternative for flights to Juba. Who knows, they might even have to add a third flight if demand justifies it, but apart from them no one can sustain such huge amounts of money being held captive. It is like the chaps in Juba expect us to render services for free to them but this is not how aviation works. Fuel must be paid, catering must be paid, ground handling and ATC charges in Juba have to be paid and the funny enough insist on dollar payments too. Maybe it is a wake up call for them because other airlines have threatened similar measures’.
Watch this space for the latest developments on this breaking news story.