Ayii eyes aggressive foreign policy to restore image

Ayii eyes aggressive foreign policy to restore image

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mayiik Ayii Deng, has pledged to restore the tarnished image of the country through advancing its foreign policy agenda.

In his presentation at the governors’ forum at Freedom Hall yesterday, Ayii Deng said that the restoration of peace in Sudan was already a step the country could be credited with having restored its image.

He said that the country should encourage more bilateral relations and promote conflict resolution in the region by liaising with the African Union, the United Nations and other sub-regional, regional and international organisations.

“As you all know, South Sudan has been active in mediating the Sudan Peace Process until an agreement was reached. This is one success story in our foreign policy engagement, ” Minister Ayii said.

He went on to say that timely payment of debts in foreign missions, as well as timely payment of monthly salaries in embassies and foreign missions, would help restore the good image.

Efforts being made

“The Ministry has been exerting efforts with the Ministry of Finance and Planning to secure funds for our Embassies and Missions abroad so that their monthly salaries and rents reach regularly and on time, as the delay in paying salaries and rents is one of the factors tarnishing the image of our country and should be resolved once and for all,” said the minister.

“Another issue which has been also contributing in tarnishing the image of the country, and needs to be given due attention, is non-settlement of the country’s arrears in the sub-regional, regional and international organisations.”

He said that inability to pay arrears in sub-regional, regional and international organisations hinders South Sudanese employment.

“Notwithstanding, this also has another negative…impact of hindering employment of qualified South Sudanese in these sub-regional, regional and international organizations as the employment or recruitment is conditioned with the honouring of a member country’s financial obligations,” he added.

He added that the country would prioritise peace, security, environmental protection, respect for human rights and finding sustainable development.

Expulsion notice

Last month, South Sudan was given a deadline to meet its financial obligations to regional and continental bodies or face expulsion.

Both the African Union (AU) and the East African Community (EAC) exerted pressure on the government to clear its arrears in order to authenticate its membership.

This came as the second of its kind in two years for the country to be ducked by financial responsibilities basically in the East African Community.

In 2020, South Sudan and Burundi made headlines in the East African Legislative Assembly for their inability to settle debts. Their membership suffered threats of suspension in the regional bloc if the debts piled up.

 “Although EAC Financial Rules and Regulations provide that the contributions from each Partner State shall be considered due on the 1st day of July in each financial year, and shall be paid within the first six months of the financial year, Partner States continue to default and some remain in arrears throughout the financial year,” said Abdikadir Aden, the Chairperson of the East African Legislative Assembly General Purpose-Budget Committee, was quoted by the East African to have said.

Each member state is responsible for paying a round sum of $ 8 million annually. South Sudan had piled up a huge debt of $ 27 million as of the June 10, 2020 report.

South Sudan was expelled from the African Union in the same year for her failure to clear $9 million in membership fees. Pending the membership fee payment, James Pitia Morgan, the South Sudan ambassador to Ethiopia, was deprived of participation in the sittings of the organisation.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has added salt to the injury, the country had been facing similar financial challenges in the regional and continental organizations before the pandemic.

This translates to the fact that most of the civil servants in South Sudan have been known to face the delayed payment of their monthly salaries as well as the embassies abroad being unable to clear their rental fees.

Taking the right direction

Although critics had always maintained that the time was not ripe for South Sudan to join any regional or international body, the country has recently resolved to move steps towards the intended direction.

South Sudan has recently pledged to observe accountability and transparency in the usage of public resources in meetings with IMF.

There was also a promise from the new Minister of Finance and Economic Planning to the timely payment of civil servants’ salaries.

The Council of Ministers last month approved $100 to clear its debts abroad and reopen embassies that were closed as one of the steps to restore its image.

There had been a noticeable 100  per cent increment in the salaries of civil servants, which was ordered by President Salva Kiir Mayardit on the 10th anniversary of South Sudan’s independence.

Last week, Kiir asked the UN Security Council to lift the arms embargo imposed on South Sudan so that they could be able to carry out disarmament by buying arms from civilians.

The president said that civilians had refused to be disarmed because they bought arms, and so the government would buy arms and destroy them.

He said that it could be the right way to reduce communal conflicts that cause numerous atrocities committed against innocent civilians, which tarnish the image of the country.

“…President Salva Kiir Mayardit told the UN delegation that since the civilians are resisting the voluntary disarmament exercise due to the fact that they used their money during the conflict to buy guns, he is thinking of an idea for the government to offer to buy off those guns from the civilians as a means of encouraging voluntary disarmament from the citizens, to collect those guns from the civilians and destroy them,” read a statement seen by The City Review.

Not to be lifted

Amnesty International published a report in May that said it was not the right time to lift the arms embargo on South Sudan. The report warned of dire consequences should sanctions be lifted on South Sudan.

This came ahead of the UN Security Council’s polls on May 27 where they were to decide whether to lift arms embargo on South Sudan or not.

 “The Security Council must ensure a range of human rights benchmarks are met before the embargo can be lifted,” read the report.

 “These include an end to crimes under international law, reform of the National Security Service, and the establishment of a hybrid court to ensure accountability.”

Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Sarah Jackson, said that there had never been a respect for human rights in 10 years of South Sudan’s independence.

“South Sudan’s hard-won independence 10 years ago has sadly not resulted in respect for human rights. State security forces repress freedom of expression, including media freedoms, and both state security forces and armed groups continue to violate international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes, with impunity, ” she said.

“When the Security Council assesses keeping or lifting the arms embargo on South Sudan, it must, at a minimum, set the bar at halting these violations and ending impunity.”

Arms embargo imposed

The South Sudanese government had a bad reputation for failing to protect its own citizens from armed groups and militias who killed, displaced, and raped them.

Among the areas of accusation were the burning of villages, raping of young girls and boys, use of forced starvation as a war tactic, targeted shooting of civilians, and other crimes against humanity claimed to have remained unpunished to date.

The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan as of July 13, 2018, thus directing the UN member states to prevent the supply, sale and transfer of arms and ammunition, military vehicles, and spare parts to the country.

The arms embargo also stretches to the prevention of technical support, training, finances, and other military-related assistance. It was to expire on May 31, 2021.