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Juba Hotel Owners Evict South Sudan Officials for Millions in Unpaid Bills

FILE - An aerial view shows Juba, Nov. 5, 2010.
FILE - An aerial view shows Juba, Nov. 5, 2010.

Hotel and apartment owners in the South Sudan capital Juba have begun evicting hundreds of government and political party officials who have not paid their bills since 2018.

Some hotels have shut down electricity and water supply to force the officials to leave. The owners say they are considering contacting the police to evict the officials if they refuse to vacate their rooms.

In 2018 after the revitalized peace deal was signed, officials and generals were put up in hotels and apartments by the now-defunct National Pre-Transitional Committee, a body that oversaw implementation of activities leading up to installation of a transitional government.

Last month, nine hotels in Juba notified Tut Kew Gatluak, presidential adviser for security affairs and the head of the new National Transitional Committee, that the Committee had five days to pay the more than $10 million in arrears or the officials would be evicted.

A joint statement released Thursday and signed by managers of 18 hotels, all members of the Hotels and Catering Association of South Sudan, said the process of evicting more than 300 officials had begun.

'Nowhere to go'

Kot Maker, manager of the Royal Hotel, said Friday his hotel cut the water and power supply to the officials’ rooms in an attempt to force them to leave.

“We cut off the power and the water effectively from 12 [midnight] and then we are demanding them to leave immediately from 12 noon today. The response, they said, [is] we have nowhere to go,” Maker told South Sudan in Focus.

One evicted official who spoke on condition of anonymity for safety reasons told VOA it is inhumane for hotel owners to kick them out.

“We feel so bad that we have been thrown out at the end and nobody is taking care of us from now on,” said the official. “Power has already been disconnected from our rooms and maybe soon before nightfall we are asked to leave the hotel and we do not know where we are heading from here.”

Maker said his hotel is using peaceful means to evict government officials.

“We have no gun. We have to pursue them, we have to talk to them politely, we have to convince them to leave peacefully, because if they refuse we have also to call the police in to evict them and then if they refuse the expenses, the losses that will be counted on them from today, then you have to pay your own,” said the hotel manager.

Repeated warnings

Mel Garang Yout, general manager of the Hotel Buluk, told reporters Thursday in Juba that the 18 hotel managers repeatedly tried without success to speak to Gatluak about the outstanding bills, adding they gave Gatluak two separate warnings last month.

“The chairman promised us to clear our money and until now he has not paid any money. We got from other media that the chairman stated he paid some hotels but when we asked [amongst] ourselves, nobody has been cleared so we decided to come with a final conclusion to chase out all the customers from NPTC,” Yout told South Sudan in Focus.

He said some hotels which were not part of the initial effort have since joined the other hotels in calling on the National Transitional Committee to pay up.

“The problem last time we were demanding more than $10 million, but now we realize some hotels were not with us before so we have now included Pyramid hotel, we have Palm Africa hotel, we have Juba Landmark, we have Juba Grand and Crown hotel, so these people are demanding more than that even. So we don’t know, now maybe it is more than 20 or more than 50 million,” Yout said.

Earlier this week, Gatluak told reporters in Juba the government had paid some of the massive hotel bills. “We have paid some and some are not yet, this is a government [and] its debts cannot get finished,” Gatluak said.

Hotels suffering

Yout said the hotels have not received any payment from the government and are having a hard time paying the salaries of employees and maintaining their facilities because of the millions of dollars owed by the National Transitional Committee. He said the government’s delay in paying accommodation bills will deter existing investors and new ones from coming to the country.

Last year, some government officials were evicted from the Palm Africa and Pyramid hotels for failing to pay their bills.