Kampala — The Governor of Unity State, Taban Deng Gai, has returned to Bentui after spending three months outside of South Sudan amid contention over the reason for his long absence.
Unity State authorities have said that the Governor went to visit his family in Australia and to carry out some government duties abroad. But an anonymous government source told Sudan Tribune that the Governor's health was also a reason for the trip.
The source told Sudan Tribune that the before the Governor traveled to Australia he visited Germany for a medical treatment, apparently on his liver and kidneys. Taban Deng Gai, who is 50, is suffering from Hepatitis B, according to the source.
The practice of senior government officials traveling outside South Sudan, which has one of the worst healthcare systems in the world, for treatment is not uncommon.
Gai joined South Sudan's Vice President Riek Machar Teny in October ahead of his address to the United States for the United Nation Security Council meeting in New York.
The Governor then toured a number of states with Machar visiting members of the South Sudanese Diaspora, where they witnessed thousands of South Sudanese people who have been jailed for committing crimes abroad.
Governor Gai was received by his Deputy, the Speaker Unity State's parliament and the Council of State Ministers, as well as hundreds of citizens when he arrived at Rubkotna airport on Friday.
However, many citizens in Unity State are unhappy with the length and nature of the Governor's trip, while the state is suffering from severe floods and after the government cut salaries by 25% in October.
Some government employees have questioned why the Governor should receive expensive treatment abroad, while the citizens of Unity State face salary cuts and poor health services. The public servants whose salaries have been cut accuse the state government of corruption.
The Governor's return to Bentiu may even be a destabilizing factor in Unity State's politics, the source said, because of the level of dissatisfaction with Governor Gai's performance.
I mean to say that the governor stand in 2010 election want improve the issue of militias in the state. According to his claim.
While addressing his cabinet ministers and the crowd upon his return to Bentiu on Friday, the Governor said that oil production will resume on 21 November. South Sudan stopped oil production in January as part of a transit fee dispute with neighbouring Sudan.
The two sides signed an agreement on 27 September to resume production, which is much needed for the struggling economies of both countries.
There have been complaints that despite Unity State's oil wealth citizens have not seen the development expected or been able to find jobs in the industry.
Governor Gai said that "only those with high qualifications" would be recruited to work at the national level in Juba, however, he said that "general services and other primary work shall be at the shoulder of Unity State people".
South Sudan's national parliament passed a law stating that all employment into the oil industry shall be managed by the Ministry of Petroleum in Juba rather than at a state level. This had angered students from Unity State who had hoped to find jobs in the industry.
Before South Sudan's independence oil companies generally recruited people from Khartoum, for all positions, not just those requiring highly qualified personnel.
The Unity State communities, which the Governor met in the United States, say the Governor has promised he will not stand for re-election in next the next elections in 2015.
Governor Gai won the 2010 elections in disputed circumstance, with his rival, Angelina Teny, the wife of Vice President Machar, claiming that she had won the election.