By Moses Michira
Heavy fighting in South Sudan has prompted the closure of three branches of a Kenyan-owned bank, as the impact of an ongoing crisis hits home.
Yesterday, the management of Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) announced the closure of its branches in Bentiu, Bor and Malakal towns following weeks of deadly clashes involving government troops and rebels associated with the recently sacked vice-president Riek Machar.
KCB, which controls about half of the country’s market, however, reported that 19 other branches in towns that are perceived to be safe including Juba – the country’s capital city – would remain operational.
“Despite a temporary closure of our three branches, namely Bentiu, Bor and Malakal, our customers are still able to access our services in the other 19 branches which are operational,” said Charity Muya-Ngaruiya, chair of the board of KCB South Sudan. KCB South Sudan is a wholly owned subsidiary of KCB.
KCB has the largest exposure to the political turmoil that the world’s newest State is engulfed in compared to any other lender due to its widespread footprint in the country’s regions. The South Sudan operations contribute nearly a tenth of the KCB Group’s profits.
Earlier, Equity Bank had reported the closure of two of its branches in Malakal and Bor regions, citing the raging conflict. Co-operative Bank has a single branch in Juba, which is largely unaffected.
Muya-Ngaruiya said she was hopeful that the ongoing negotiations between the warring groups would be successful, and that calm would be restored.
“We are confident that the process will result in a settlement that will allow us to resume our investment programme and help us contribute to the country’s development,” she said yesterday.