By Juma Mabor Marial
September 17, 2014 (SSNA) -- This question is very easy for the Minster of Labour, Public Service and Human Resource Development to answer because it is apparent that no government minister could issue orders and fail to follow up on them. Nonetheless, as a citizen of this country and very familiar with the way things have been happening, I am a bit skeptical of how this question can be answered adequately. However, before I could attempt to give any answer to such question, I wish to give my readers a brief background of what I intends to share with them on this particular issue.
Over the past few days, international, regional and national airwaves have been hit by the news that the government of the Republic of South Sudan and particularly its ministry of Labour, public service and human resource development has issued orders to all government institutions, NGOS, private sector, commercials banks and private companies to sack some aliens employed in their institutions and such vacated positions be given to south Sudanese citizens. The ministry has given all concerned institutions one month up to mid October 2014 to implement this order. What impressed jobless south Sudanese most is the articulation and clarification made by the Undersecretary of the ministry of Labour and public service when she said among other things that, during the war, foreigners were the ones occupying most of the jobs in south Sudan because some educated citizens were at the battle fields while the rest were overseas and now that the country is three years old, the citizens have come back and should be given the opportunity for employment. The customary blanket excuse that south Sudanese do not have required skills and knowledge has been rubbished by the undersecretary which makes things easier for me not to delve further in counteracting that argument.
Although the citizens of south Sudan both employed and unemployed have applause the idea by the ministry, there are enormous challenges that are associated with this order including but not limited to the misinterpretation of the order by the foreign and neighboring countries, yesterday, I got a phone call from Kenya enquiring that the government of south Sudan has been said to have given all the Kenyans in south Sudan up to October to leave the country and this, the caller said is what they heard on Kenyan televisions and read in their newspapers, even if I am not a ministry of Labour spokesperson, I felt obliged to answer and give clarifications in my capacity as a citizen of south Sudan to this caller that, the order was not about chasing the Kenyans or foreigners away from south Sudan but it was about the foreigners that occupies jobs for the local citizens. The caller was convinced and satisfied with the answer but what I do not know now is whether this one Kenyan I have talked to will be able to convince and clarify to all the 40 million plus Kenyans that have heard in their national televisions and newspapers that south Sudan has not given their citizens less than three weeks to leave the country.
Having been to Kenya for several years myself, I have been a victim of prejudice of the Kenyan media when things would happen back here and they are reported subjectively on the other side, my Embassy in Kenya then was nowhere to protect me and other vulnerable south Sudanese from abuses by the Kenyan citizens, I don’t know if things have changed now.
In Kenya and I think also in Uganda, any little mistake that happened in south Sudan is amplified and it is immediately taken out against the south Sudanese citizens in their countries, the funny thing is that, even the Kenyans and Ugandans who are in this country and benefiting greatly get worse and fail to convince their colleagues that south Sudan and the people of south Sudan are not what they say they are in reality, instead, those Kenyans and Ugandans who stays here report negatively about south Sudan and I can confirm this when in December 2013, the crisis broke out in south Sudan and the Kenyan government evacuated its citizens, upon their arrival in Kenya, the Kenyans who were in south Sudan gave some unbelievable reports that they were raped, killed and their money taken and this was on the national televisions and all the newspapers, the irony in these stories was, the people who were giving account of what happened to them in south Sudan including being killed were the ones talking and one wonders, how would a dead person resurrect and give account of how s/he was killed. Funny enough again, some of these stupid Kenyans came back to south Sudan even before the south Sudanese themselves and before the first cease fire was signed and this tells you that, maybe, because Kenyans and Ugandans are very selfish people, they didn’t want their other colleagues to come to south Sudan and get the business opportunities that the few of them are monopolizing. I don’t have anything personal against Kenyans or Ugandans in this particular case but I am just trying to give some few examples of the hypocrisy that the foreigners have about this country although they are the real beneficiaries as most of them are employed in the private sector, NGOS, government institutions and commercial banks.
Now is the time when the real screening should be done, just like the ministry of Labour has realized, there is no reason why 99.9% of the employees should be foreigners whether in the NGOs, Private sector, private companies, commercials banks or hotels. This has been the trend since independence and it is unfortunate that this decision has come a little too late as these foreigners have already milked the country dry of the resources that are not rightfully theirs, for instance, in the commercial banks here in south Sudan, you would realize that apart from having employed all foreigners, these foreigners have come up with a very witty policy of running this country dry of its resources by allowing their citizens to transfer their money from account here to account in Kenya or Uganda and south Sudanese are denied these services. The few south Sudanese employed at such banks are being intimidated and threatened with losing their jobs if they raise any alarm as most of them are junior staffs.
It is also in these commercial banks that the foreigners instead of giving hard currencies allocated to them by this country’s central bank to all their customers, they only allocate them to their citizens who instead of travelling outside or sending them to their families takes it back to black market and bring the money back to their colleagues to be transfer to their home countries and this routine continuous while the ordinary south Sudanese who should rightfully get these services are suffering, the same activities are what are happening in the private sector and NGOS where the human resource managers are foreigners as they take advantage of their positions and invite their colleagues from their countries and employ them in positions where south Sudanese are supposed to be employed. This is the reason why, in almost every company, commercial banks, NGOs where foreigners are, you would find that from the executive director to the receptionist or even a cook, all of them are foreigners. So, the ministry of Labour having seen these cheating and illegal businesses was justified in issuing such order in order to salvage the country from sliding into a xenophobic condition because the opinions in the streets against foreigners from the citizens of this country are not something that someone would wish to linger for too long.
Ok, having said all these justifications, is the order implementable? The question is hard, why, because, as reported in the Voice of America Radio this morning, this is not the first time such order has been issued, the previous ministers of Labour have issued such orders before but it wasn’t implemented because, these sectors that employs foreigners have vested interests in each and every alien that they employ, some of these foreigners are either their business associates, their, In Laws, their friends or their wives and husbands, yes, one can employ his/her wife in these sectors if they have acquired south Sudanese nationality by naturalization but the question is, do all these foreign wives and husbands working in our government institutions have such documents? I don’t know.
Another thing is that, all these aliens working in commercial banks, private sector, private companies and NGOS and dealing in unscrupulous businesses are working in cohorts with the mighty in this country and therefore they are so connected to the extent that, ordinary citizens have been rendered voiceless and useless to raise any concerns even when things goes wrong in their watch. The foreigners in the commercial banks in particular are very much protected as they help in facilitating the illegal activities of these big people in the issues that I have highlighted above.
Nevertheless, it is good that, the successive ministers in the ministry of Labour, public service and human resource development have continuously realize that unemployment is what this country is struggling with and as such, they are one after another diagnosing that employment of aliens in the above mentioned sectors is the reason why south Sudanese do not get jobs and therefore a solution has to be found although there are too many roadblocks ahead. In that case, I wish to assist the ministry by suggesting the following recommendations:
The ministry of Labour, public service and human resource development should give this order to all the targeted sectors and attached to it, a circular for such sectors to form committees to study files and recruitment of the staff in each sector with priority on non-nationals to be first eliminated. The ministry of telecommunication has led in this area and I applause the minister for that initiative.
The ministry of Labour, public service and human resource development should form its own oversight committee to also go after all these sectors and make their own screening to ensure that no stones are left unturned in those sectors that people want to continue maintaining the status quo.
Just like the minister of telecommunication said, screening and reviewing the files of the staff should not only be to remove foreigners, but it should also be to check the performance of each staff and give recommendations for their promotions or otherwise, because, here, sacking aliens does not mean employing illiterate south Sudanese.
In keeping in touch with our neighbours and other countries of the world, the ministry should ensure that, a copy of this order is copied to all our embassies abroad and the ambassadors should be ask to share this information with the host countries such that it is not misinterpreted to mean that south Sudan does not want foreigners in the country, my fear is that, if this information is not corrected, our citizens in the other countries will be abused and mistreated particularly in Kenya and Uganda because I have experiences in how the media from these countries and their citizens takes something from south Sudan in a subjective and wholesale manner.
The ministry of Labour, public service and human resource development should if it goes through this order ensure that, capacity building and on-job training of the civil servants is given a priority in all sectors such that in the next few years, south Sudan should not be a laughing stock to foreigners who think that they are here because south Sudanese do not have the required skills and knowledge to be employed in managerial and administrative positions.
The ministry of Labour, public service and human resource development in collaboration with the ministry of justice, ministry of commerce, trade and investment should ensure that all licenses for those commercial banks, private companies, NGOS are withdrawn if they fail to cooperate and implement the orders.
In conclusion, I appreciate the decision by the minister of Labour, Public Service and human resource development for keeping with the spirit of his predecessors to open up jobs opportunities to their fellow citizens, the only difference for honourable Minister now is how he would implement this policy because its implementation has always been the problem not the issuing of orders. As for south Sudanese, it is our right and we should not be embarrassed to demand for employment from our government and ask the foreigners to leave our jobs. In every country, there are jobs that are reserved for nationals and south Sudan should not be an exception.
Finally, all sectors must collaborate and cooperate with the government and particularly the ministry of Labour, public service and human resource development in ensuring that this policy is implemented because lack of employment opportunities for south Sudanese youth has tremendous impacts on the economic, security and general development of this country.