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African press review 17 October 2018

The UN says South Sudanese army personnel are responsible for most atrocities in the on-going war. Moody's ratings agency keeps South Africa out of the junk zone. Why have African debt levels doubled in just two years?

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The United Nations blames South Sudanese soldiers for most of the killings and rapes carried out in the country.

This is reported on the front page of regional paper the East African.

Virginia Gamba, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, told the Security Council that she was particularly alarmed by what she described as the "rampant levels of grave violations committed by government security forces."

The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) is said to have carried out nearly 80 percent of the 987 killings or maiming of children documented by the UN between October 2014 and June this year.

The SPLA was also responsible for more than 90 percent of the 658 verified incidents of sexual violence against children during the same period.

The SPLA has more than 40 percent of the total number of 5,723 child soldiers reported to be in the ranks of South Sudan's armed groups.

The UN counted 1,447 children, including five girls, among forces loyal to rebel leader and former vice president Riek Machar.

Groups associated with Taban Deng Gai, formerly of the armed opposition and now one of the country's vice presidents, recruited and fielded 801 children, including 46 girls, according to the United Nations' report.

South Africa saved from the junk zone

South Africa has been let off the hook by Moody's.

The international ratings agency yesterday said that the country's credit status remains investment grade and may be upgraded, depending on certain economic reforms.

Despite having a diversified economy, a sound macro-economic policy framework and relatively secure financial markets, South Africa is hampered by rising government debt and risks associated with several struggling state-owned enterprises.

Moody’s is the only one of the three major rating agencies to keep South Africa’s credit standing at investment grade level, currently with a stable outlook. Standard & Poor's and Fitch both downgraded South African debt to junk status last year, in response to the surprise cabinet reshuffle and an unfavourable mid-term budget.

South Africa's medium-term budget policy statement for this year is due to be made next week by the newly-appointed finance minister, Tito Mboweni.

African debt doubles in just two years

Africa's external debt payments doubled between 2015 and 2017.

Continental debt is now at the highest level since 2001 according to a new report from financial pressure group the Jubilee Debt Campaign.

African governments are currently spending an average of 12 percent of their revenues to finance existing debt, up from less than 6 percent in 2015.

Falling commodity prices and a rise in the value oif the dollar explain most of the increase.

The data shows that of external debt owed by African governments, 35 percent is to multilateral lenders, 32 percent to private lenders, around 20 percent to China, and 13 percent to other governments.

Interest rates tend to be higher on private-sector loans, which account for 55 percent of interest payments.

Interestingly, despite recent reports which have claimed that China is responsible for causing new debt traps on the African continent, the new figures show that, while China’s role as a lender on the continent has indeed been growing, its relative importance is less than is frequently claimed, especially as far as countries currently in debt crisis are concerned.

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