The political role of minister of foreign affairs

By James Monyluak De Mijok Thon, Lethbridge, Canada

October 19, 2011 (SSNA) — The solemn job of foreign affairs Minister is to explains, defends, and implements President’s policies in foreign countries. In any given sovereign state, the legislative branch makes laws, the judicial branch interpret or implement laws, and the executive branch enforce laws. This has been the traditional way of how powers are divided in the government to operate fully and effectively in democratic states.

Foreign policies are not formulated or designed by the state legislative branch, but by the executive branch in conjunction with foreign issues related to political affairs, international security, international trade and commerce, immigration, and other related matters. The president here is the key designer with his cabinet ministers in charge of overseas businesses.

The foreign affairs minister then become the key figure in explaining, defending, and implementing all policies in foreign countries based on the instructions given by the president at all times. He or she cannot contradict the president policies by implementing different agenda in foreign lands. Foreign minister too, has to work closely with the president by being close ally or friend in that matter to the president as well.

In 2005, Dr Lam Akol was appointed by Southern Sudan presidential decree to head the Sudanese ministry of foreign affairs on the SPLM ticket based on the power arrangement and ministerial seats allocated to SPLM party in GONU. Akol appointment was done in the South by his party [SPLM] as per CPA arrangement. He was always not going to represents Southern Sudan as a sovereign state as many perceived so, but to represents Sudan as one country headed by president Bashier who directs all ministers to implement his policies both at home and around the world. President Kiir knew what foreign policies meant and how they work in regard to implementation process.

In later years, Dr Akol become known both at home and around the world in implementing what was needed to be done in foreign countries by President Bashier. He had then distanced himself from his SPLM colleagues and President Kiir in particular. He also denied many times that there was no genocide in Darfur; but argued that the situation was internationally exaggerated by the West. This has been the position too, of President Bashier denying the ongoing genocide in Darfur. And so Akol’s denial of genocide in Darfur was not his own word, but President Basher’s word. Akol was right in explaining and defending president Bashier foreign policies and being too close to the president at the same time. If he chose different way as it was expected by Southerners, he would have then risked his political future with individuals like Bashier given his political prostitution in Sudan and the South in particular.

The only thing and better way forward was for Dr. Lam Akol, then foreign minister to either keep quiet by not singing the song of denying ‘genocide in Darfur’ or work closely with his Party (SPLM) boss and colleagues as well in order not to be perceived by Southerners and other marginalized areas as betrayal of their cause.

Therefore, his being too close to president Bashier then was well calculated move by him and this has served as pay back to his SPLM-DC party in terms of financial support and political orientation before the independence of RSS in July 2011. Whoever blames him not to have implemented the interests of Southerners is totally wrong at this point; people need to learn how foreign policies work before rushing to conclusions.

The only credit Akol had was the appointment of Southern diplomats although the selection was not fair and creditable enough. He selected most Southern diplomats during his time in office based on his own preference and not in the way many had expected in the South. The good thing was that many Southerners were appointed and assigned in diplomatic affairs overseas.

Deng Alor, the Ex- foreign affairs minister who took over from Akol had different approach on foreign matters in the then united or old Sudan. He was not always a centre of focus, rather, he is said to have been dealing or approaching foreign issues subtly. He was seen by many, especially SPLM hardliners and other marginalized areas (Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile and Darfur) as the right man for the job simply because he would not go publicly denying what was considered by the international community the worst humanitarian crisis at the time.

Nhial Deng Nhial appointment as RSS foreign minister: the appointment of Nhial Deng Nhial has received mix reactions among South Sudanese. Some people have welcomed his appointment simply because he is one of the insiders of then SPLM/A foreign policy experts if you will or because of his educational background (BA & MA-law graduate).

On the other hand, some critics say that he is not the right man for the job given his softness on issues rather than being bold and louder on issues like security or foreign matters.

And finally, some argued that let us forget the past and give the man a chance to see whether he can delivers boldly and swiftly this time round in an independent South Sudan.

In conclusion, many fair-minded individuals would ask the following questions:

Who was practically in charge of Sudan foreign policies, President Bashier or Ist VP Salva Kiir during the interim period (2005-2011?)

On what basis or criteria did President Kiir used in appointing Dr. Lam Akol in 2005 as Sudan foreign affairs minister on the SPLM ticket given his long time political approach?

What has Deng Alor achieved differently given his political loyalty to SPLM compared to Akol achievements?

Is Nhial Deng Nhial going to make a big difference as RSS Foreign Minister given his softness or lenient approach, especially when he was a Defence Minister in GOSS, and when security situations was getting worse day by day, month by month, and year by year in the lead up to 2011 Referendum vote for Southern Sudan in the South?

James Monyluak De Mijok Thon is a concerned south Sudanese living in the City of Lethbridge, Canada reachable at [email protected]

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