South Sudan Plans Major Diplomatic Reforms Planned by FM Benjamin

By Joe Odaby

Juba, South Sudan — October 14, 2013 (SSN) … South Sudan’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin has announced that a major diplomatic reform is underway in the South Sudan Foreign Ministry.

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South Sudan Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, (Getty)

The move comes after national legislative assembly lawmakers from the south-governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) expressed concerns over the manner in which its embassies handle the country’s foreign affairs matters.

“There remains a lot of work to be done and it is imperative that the ministry devise policies reflective of the law and priorities of the government”, said Assembly Speaker Magok Rundial.

The South Sudan Foreign Affairs ministry, he said, should embark on sustained efforts aimed at creating awareness globally on the country’s independence status.

“There are countries which still do not know that South Sudan is an independent state. Such a challenge requires skilled and effective diplomats,” stressed Rundial.

The young nation, in 2011, enacted the Diplomatic and Consular Service Act; a law intended to simplify decision making processes and give it more access to international affairs.

The law, which became operational in January last year, allows the country to establish embassies in key countries and permanent missions at the regional and international organisations, including having temporary consular missions.

It also provides for the establishment of missions, to be run by ambassadors, minister plenipotentiaries, counselors and categorised sizable secretaries.

To the credit of the South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir Mayrdit, and its Foreign Minister, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, this young democracy currently has 22 embassies in various countries, including efficiently-working embassies in Washington, D.C. and in London.

South Sudan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Benjamin stresses that in spite of the shortage of trained diplomats, his Ministry is determined to strengthen the international standing of their country.

Last month Dr. Benjamin  formed a technical committee to study how it could improve relations with other countries by deploying competent workforce in line with the policy of lean, but effective cadres.

According to the recent committee’s recommendations, the number of diplomats deployed at the 22 embassies needed to be reduced to reflect the government policy of lean, but effective diplomatic cadres.

The committee, the foreign affairs spokesperson said, is also conducting background checks of individual diplomats, examining specifically their areas of specialty, experiences, capabilities and level of understanding of diplomatic and international affairs,

As in many democracies, including the United States, the ambassadors are often chosen not amongst the carrier diplomats but amongst prominent figures who are rewarded by the ambassadorial post for their service to the country in other, often not related to foreign affairs, fields. South Sudan’s Foreign Ministry also has a number senior diplomats who were appointed not on the basis of their merits, but as a reward for having played active role in the independence war, but had no prior training in diplomacy and foreign relations.

“They certainly did good work by helping bring to the spotlight what our people were undergoing, but not all activists are good diplomats”, the foreign affairs spokesperson said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin is determined to limit this practice and vigorously professionalize the diplomatic cadres of South Sudan.