There are fears the move will disrupt efforts to avert the country’s food crisis
South Sudan’s government says it will not expel foreign workers, annulling a decree it issued a day earlier.
There was no government policy ordering foreign workers to leave by 15 October, Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said at a press conference.
Thousands of people working for aid agencies and private firms would have been affected by the decree.
On Tuesday, the charity Oxfam warned that expulsions would negatively affect aid programmes in South Sudan.
Nearly two million people have fled their homes since two factions of the ruling party fell out in December.
Thousands of people have died in the fighting and aid agencies say up to four million people are at risk of food shortages because of the crisis.
Violence has forced people to flee the world’s newest state
Mr Benjamin, in an address to journalists in the capital, Juba, appeared to suggest that an earlier circular issued by the labour ministry giving a months’ notice for certain positions to be declared vacant was released prematurely, says the BBC’s Denis Okari in neighbouring Kenya.
The labour ministry was still in the process of working on employment regulations that would give skilled locals a fair chance to get jobs in private companies and non-governmental organisations, Mr Benjamin said.
Thousands of workers from Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda would have been affected by the directive, our reporter says.
The circular listed nine roles – executive directors, personnel managers, secretaries, human relations officers, public relation officers, procurement officers, front desk officers, protocol officers and receptionists – that had to be filled by “competent South Sudanese nationals” from 15 October.
On Tuesday, Helen Achiro Lotara, the under secretary at the labour ministry, told the BBC the aim was to ensure that 80% of managerial-level positions were held by locals.
South Sudan is the world’s newest state after gaining independence in 2011.
The education system is in ruins following decades of conflict.
Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in December 2013. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.
Sudan’s arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan’s budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state – at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world’s newest country – and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water – up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan – however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).