South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has sacked several judges who had been on strike over poor pay and living conditions for the last two months, officials said on Thursday.
The world’s youngest country plunged into civil war in 2013 just two years after gaining independence following Kiir’s firing of his deputy, triggering a conflict fought largely along ethnic lines.
The conflict has slashed oil revenues and paralyzed agriculture. Civil servants and soldiers go unpaid for months and hyperinflation renders money almost worthless.
On Wednesday evening, Kiir issued a decree that dismissed a group of 12 judges who went on strike in a bid to force reform in the judicial system, Deputy Information Minister Akol Paul Kordit told Reuters.
“These judges who were supposed to deliver justice obstructed justice themselves. They denied our people justice for reasons that could be resolved through administrative channels,” he said.
The group comprised of appeals court judges who demanded that the chief justice resigned on grounds that he obstructed the judicial system, as well as more judges he appointed and promoted.
“These were the demands we put forward. Now the complainers have been sacked,” said Guri Raymondo, a spokesperson for the judges’ union.
“We will sit down and hear from the general assembly what is the next step,” he told Reuters.
Junior judges receive a salary of SSP4,000 ($25) a month in the country of 12 million people, where a kilo of rice costs SSP130. There are 150 pounds to the dollar on the black market.
South Sudan had only 274 judges on its payroll in its last budget, some of whom have since resigned.
War in the country has forced more than a quarter of its entire population to flee their homes and plunged parts of it into famine, creating Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.