New nation of South Sudan to get new currency

July 11, 2011 - 9:44 AM
Southern Sudan

Southern Sudanese wave flags and cheer at the Republic of South Sudan's first national soccer match in the capital of Juba on Sunday, July 10, 2011. The game, played against Kenya, comes just one day after South Sudan declared its independence from the north following decades of costly civil war. (AP Photo/Pete Muller)

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudan formed a caretaker government for the new nation Monday, and announced it will use a new currency that features the image of the deceased founder of the nation's liberation struggle.

South Sudan became an independent country Saturday, breaking away from Sudan after more than 50 years of on-and-off war.

The country's finance minister, David Deng Athorbie, said Monday the new currency would be called the South Sudan pound and will replace the Sudan pound currently in use. It is scheduled to arrive by cargo plane beginning Wednesday and will go into circulation next Monday. It will have a one-to-one value with the Sudan pound.

The image of Dr. John Garang, the deceased rebel leader, will adorn one side of the bills. The other sides would show images of South Sudan's culture and wealth, Athorbie said. The bills will have watermarks and other security measures.

"I must warn those people who usually print fake currency, if they attempt it they will almost certainly be caught," Athorbie said.

Impromptu street parties broke out early Saturday when the oil-rich country became independent. World leaders flocked to Juba to join tens of thousands of southerners at a 10-hour ceremony held in blistering heat. On Sunday, churches were packed as southerners listened to sermons about promoting peace and unity among the country's diverse tribes.

And on Monday, although a national holiday had been declared, the government got to work.

With hands on bibles — both Arabic and English — the ministers of the semiautonomous Southern Sudanese government were transformed into the caretaker Cabinet for the new Republic of South Sudan at an informal and jovial ceremony.

In between jokes made by the typically quiet and solemn President Salva Kiir, the chief justice of the Supreme Court read the fourth and fifth decrees of the new government, which dissolved the former Cabinet and appointed the same 32 ministers to serve as caretaker ministers.

Several ministerial titles changed to reflect South Sudan's status as a country. The former minister of regional cooperation is now the foreign affairs minister, while the southern army and veterans' affairs minister became the defense minister.

The decree said the ministers "shall not undertake any major policy decisions" or enter into any "major contractual obligations" during the caretaker period. The government did not say how long the caretaker period would be.

After the Cabinet was sworn in, the finance minister told a news conference that there would be difficulties in paying government salaries on time because Sudan's government had not sent an adequate supply of the northern Sudanese currency.

Minster of the Interior Gier Chuang Aluong said the government was in the process of preparing the country's passports and urged patience.