Juba: The world's youngest nation, South Sudan, has cancelled its fifth independence celebrations as it struggles to end a civil war that has left thousands dead and ravaged the economy, the government said on Tuesday.
"We decided not to celebrate the July 9 Independence Day, because we don't want to spend that much," Minister of Information Michael Makuei told reporters. "We need to spend the little that we have on other issues."
In past years, even at the height of a civil war characterised by horrific rights abuses including gang rapes, the wholesale burning of villages and cannibalism, the government organised military parades and other celebrations.
But Makuei said this year the party would not happen.
President Salva Kiir is still expected to address the nation on July 9, five years after the world celebrated with South Sudan as it broke away from old enemies in the rump state of Sudan after decades of conflict.
But South Sudan is struggling to stem soaring inflation caused by the war, rampant corruption and the near collapse of the oil industry upon which the vast percentage of government foreign exchange earnings depend.
300 per cent inflation
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned the economy is in ruins with soaring inflation at almost 300 per cent and the currency slumping by 90 per cent this year.
Central bank international reserves to cover imports "have dwindled to a few days" the IMF said earlier this month, with the government's deficit expected to top $1.1 billion (999 million euros) this year, some 25 per cent of GDP.
Diplomats say Juba has borrowed cash against future oil production, while the UN Security Council in May ordered investigations into weapons flows with reports that huge sums have been spent equipping the army.
Civil war erupted in South Sudan in December 2013 but rebel chief Riek Machar returned to the capital in April as part of a peace deal which saw him become vice-president, forging a unity government with Kiir.
But fighting continues between multiple militia forces who now pay no heed to either Kiir or Machar.
More than 40 people died last week in days of fighting in the town of Wau, Makuei said, with aid agencies warning of dire conditions for over 10,000 people sheltering at a UN base there.
"These are the bodies that have been found so far but the cleaning continues," Makuei said. "Probably the number may rise."
All sides have been accused of perpetrating ethnic massacres, recruiting and killing children and carrying out widespread rape, torture and forced displacement of populations to "cleanse" areas of their opponents.
Tens of thousands have died since civil war broke out forcing two million from their homes and leaving five million in need of help.
More than 160,000 civilians are now in UN-guarded camps across the country, down from a peak of more than 200,000 last year.
Festus Mogae, a former Botswanan president who heads the international ceasefire monitoring team, said last week that progress "expected has not materialised" and that "if anything, the parties are further apart."
'Killings, robberies, ambushes'
The two sides are deadlocked over where troops from their respective armies should gather -- designated cantonment sites where troops are meant to surrender weapons -- and are arguing over the number of states.
Last year Kiir ordered the number of regional states be nearly tripled to 28, undermining a fundamental pillar of the power-sharing deal.
"It is of paramount importance that both parties commit to a permanent ceasefire, and hold dutifully to it without any further delay," Mogae said in a June 23 update on the peace deal.
Ceasefire monitors have been repeatedly blocked from doing their job, while aid workers struggling to support the more than five million in need continue to be attacked by gunmen, he said.
"These acts include killings, robberies, ambushes, intimidation and harassment, which clearly violate the peace agreement," Mogae said, head of the internationally-backed Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission.
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