New York, August 23, 2013 (SSNA) — The Republic of South Sudan (“RSS”) is in the most critical stage of her young life. Arising from the “ashes” of decades of civil unrest and strife, the time for the Nation has come, where South Sudan can prove herself strong, flexible and wise. However, in order to achieve this goal, restructuring of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation must be seriously considered. It is clear that the responsibility and mission to conduct relationships with other nations across the Continent as well as across the world lies in the lap of this specific branch of the RSS’s governing body. However, successful engagement with her various counterparts needs to be broadened and more holistically developed.
One important factor that, as of yet, remains ignored and overlooked is the lack of proper education among the vast number of our population. In many cases, a lack of education is the underlying cause for why mistakes of human rights violations have been highlighted during our early stage of development. Elements of this restructuring need to include complex professionals who can positively and productively represent the RSS in her advancement of political relations, economic affairs, as well as social and cultural matters of the government in her missions abroad. Detailed below are proposals on exactly the kind of restructuring we, The Ambassador Group (“AG”), believe will bring stability, peace and true global engagement for the RSS.
The RSS has already successfully appointed a number of ambassadors in important positions of the government. However, their ability to represent the excellence we are truly capable of exhibiting is restricted due to a lack of formidable training programs. These training programs would help them perform in their positions with the required careful, disciplined and calculated approach to issues that are fundamental to the country’s foreign relations policies. It is an unfortunate current reality that the persons we currently have in position have skills and abilities that would better serve the RSS in very different ways than to maintain them as ambassadors serving in areas where they have no educational training, foreign relation skills, credible connections nor basic competencies to perfect the preferred reputation our young nation needs to present in order to be respected on a global platform.
The steps to developing a global presence require that the RSS establish and support the management of at least 15 fully staffed embassies across the world. The most important and powerful nations in which these offices should be opened include: Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, United States of America, Norway, China, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, France, European Union, Canada, Australia, and South Africa. The goal and sole purpose to establish embassies in these countries is to aggressively engage with them and provide credible and concrete evidence that South Sudan is prepared to conduct relations in a more friendly way. Although it may be true that as a new independent nation, we face abundant and consistent challenges. However, staffing more skillful, educated and professional individuals in these positions will create the likelihood of presenting a more comprehensive RSS message, which will have an influence reaching far and wide.
Beyond these first major 15 locations, the RSS should also select at least 5 other countries in which South Sudan has strategic and mutual interests. Here, the options are more flexible and may include other smaller countries but still on a global and transnational level. From the onset, these offices can be established as half-staffed consulates, and can function at that level until the RSS can fund a fully-staffed office in each of these locations.
In consideration of the reality that the RSS is facing financial constraints, and is also in the heart of implementing austerity majors, it might be worthwhile to create an Envoy Arena (EA) in Juba with accommodations where the number of ambassadors who were appointed, but have not yet been deployed abroad, work and reside. Divide up the rest of the countries in which you do not currently have embassies or consulates and put them into Tiers: 1,2,3, etc. Assign these ambassadors into tiers, based only on merit. Send these ambassadors out on Shuttle Diplomacy work (tasked to travel abroad to meet, persuade, etc., and return to Juba to submit a written report detailing the approach and the accomplishments of their efforts) on a case-by-case basis. This procedure should stay in place until the country is in a position to pay for fully-staffed embassies. The benefits are: (1) As the ambassadors take turns performing diplomatic work and serving on diplomatic missions, information and documentation can be retained to help determine who performs well – empowering the RSS to post high performing ambassadors in appropriate positions and to retrain, demote or remove those whose performance doesn’t meet the required diplomatic standard; (2) The cost variables to sustain this Envoy Arena and Shuttle Diplomacy program is low compared to the cost of having fully-staffed embassies in the smaller regions where diplomatic tours may only last for a week at a time and can be fully sustained with a team as small as five diplomats for the full program – ultimately saving public funds as well.
One of the obvious resources that remains untapped is the huge concentration of South Sudanese nationals who live abroad in the United States of America, Australia, Europe and Canada. In these countries, the South Sudanese have established and maintained high quality connections with local communities, lawmakers and government officials. It will be a monumental and ostentatious idea to make use of Friends of Sudan and form a more specific group known as Friends of South Sudan Group (FSSG). Respectively, the FSSG would encompass South Sudanese nationals and their local friends to support mission assignments to lobby the local governments where they reside, and campaign to help restore our country’s image across the world. This is especially important in light of the Failed State index status recently labeled on South Sudan by The Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine. This survey ranked South Sudan in the bottom fourth before Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia among the world’s failed states. FSSG are capable to stage painstaking public and open rallies, send teams to lawmakers in parliaments, congresses and conferences to urge and solicit support for South Sudan, as well as seek time slots on the Television stations, Radio Talk-shows, newspapers and Social Media. Properly done, these initiatives, along with an honest approach and resolution to issues of Human Rights Violations at home, will provide the RSS Failed State Index status to improve without dispute.
Another beneficial asset to empowering the use of the FSSG component is the additional advocacy the FSSG can bring to the RSS in the world’s legislative bodies and governmental perceptions. For example, by hiring non-South Sudanese in-country campaigner/lobbyist to work for the key purpose of educating their respective citizens and lawmakers/policyholders on understanding the positive asset of friendship with South Sudan, as well as the importance of developing strong foreign policy engagement in South Sudan, will provide the RSS with the tools needed to build her reputation on a global scale. The payoff? (1) Global access to new and advanced educational materials; (2) public awareness that is positive and productive for the ongoing development and progress of the RSS; (3) opportunities for positive and productive meetings with global legislators and policymakers on issues that will actually continue the formation of alliances for development and growth for the RSS; and most importantly, (4) the ability, in a timely manner, to respond fully-knowledgeable to biased criticism, while taking notice and reporting back to the government corrective criticisms.
It’s been a cliché from many of the officials of the RSS government that Diasporas should come home (RSS) and be part of the nation building’s team. To date, this has never been put in action. Perhaps the time is right to put this idea into action now. Every South Sudanese with a right mind will agree that the safety of our government and her people is continually at risk while non-South Sudanese continue to manage and have access 24/7 to our country’s most hypersensitive and classified information. We know no one would jump to the conclusion and consider this precaution as discriminatory, but If we are not very, very careful, some of these non-South Sudanese – knowingly or unknowingly –might use this information against the country later.
Needless to say, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation is South Sudan’s facade to the world. If this critical ministry does well globally, the face of RSS and its people will be acclaimed and highly welcomed. However, if the ambassadors and/or its embassies’ staff fail to successfully and professionally execute their duties, the rest of the world will distance themselves from us. The ambassadors and their staff must understand that the critical part of their job is to promote the interests of RSS and its people abroad at every hour of every day. In summary, these are key objectives of RSS embassies abroad:
- To build and maintain relations with other countries and international organizations;
- To promote cooperation with other countries;
- To promote the interests of the South Sudanese nationals and the RSS abroad;
- To collect information on other countries and international developments for the Government and other interested parties (i.e., RSS business community, etc.);
- To provide information on RSS government’s policy and the RSS’ position on international issues and developments; and
- To take ownership and accountability as the “face” of RSS to the world in its capacity as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation.
On behalf of the Ambassador Group (AG):
Dhieu Deng Leek (John Dau) is the president of the John Dau Foundation (www.johndaufoundation.org) and South Sudan Institute (southsudaninstitute.org). He can be reached [email protected]