South Sudan government needs to regulate employment in public and private sectors - I

Category: Commentary
Published on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 06:46
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Agon Wuoi is a contributor to The New Sudan Vision
(Juba) - If a foreigner or someone who has never been to Southern Sudan or Juba in this particular respect arrives in Juba or any other major town in Southern Sudan, he/she will think his flight or whatever means of transport he used has been diverted to the Ugandan capital Kampala or somewhere in Kenya, Eritrea, Somalia or Ethiopia.

From the man who cleans the street, to those who push trolleys at the airport, to cab drivers (including bus and “senke” drivers), to foremen, to those running local newspapers, to those holding senior positions in both local and international non-governmental organizations, to those managing the lucrative restaurants and hotels businesses in Juba; to the executive secretaries to the ministers, chairpersons of commissions and corporations; all are foreigners 

One wonders how a country where nearly 90% of its population lives on less than a dollar a day hopes to alleviate poverty and promote self-reliance if it does not create or safeguard jobs opportunities for its citizens!

The most idiotic thing any government can do is to even allow foreigners to work in public institutions such as the ministries, commissions and corporations. Only technical experts (after thorough investigations about their background) should be allowed to work in the government institutions. This is because we need to uphold our national security at all cost!

Of course, it has long been argued that because of the two-decade long civil war and the long history of Arab domination, unfavourable and segregative policies and uneven development initiated by the British and subsequently perpetuated by the northern ruling elites, that “Southern Sudan lacks adequate and skilled manpower.”

 This is the argument that many companies (both owned by Sudanese as well as foreigners) and NGOs used to discriminate against Southern Sudanese seeking employment to justify their decisions to favour employing foreigners over Southern Sudanese.

Ironically, the so-called educated foreign nationals are not actually educated and if they were, why then are they not employed in their home countries?

Many of them have forged university degrees and college diplomas as it was recently revealed by the media in Kenya and Uganda. Many of them especially those working in the private sector cannot even speak good English yet they continue to be employed at the expense of young Sudanese graduates!

While this school of thoughts may be right to a limited extent, it will be naïve as much as it is irresponsible and immature to continue to hold this view even when many Southern Sudanese graduates from Khartoum, East Africa, Australia, The United States of America, Canada and the rest of the world cannot be employed in the private companies or nongovernmental organizations in Southern Sudan.

As such many of them opt to work with the government which does not pay well and which cannot employ everyone. Those who are frustrated return to western countries (where they were granted asylum as refugees) such as the US, Canada and Australia where many of them do not have decent jobs but are guaranteed employment at the end of day and can earn a living.

Another argument that is being peddled around by owners and managers of business establishments and the NGOs is that Southern Sudanese are difficult people to deal or work with.

Some of these owners and managers claim that Southern Sudanese lack work ethics. “Many Southern Sudanese are indolent, they are arrogant, and they are not punctual and are not obedient, they do not submit to the authority” and the list goes on and on.

 This is one of the most nonsensical arguments and clear case of stereotyping that must be dismissed with the contempt that it deserves.

The whole of Sudan enjoys relative peace and stability today because of the hard work of Southern Sudanese who refused to become second class citizens in their own country and fought hard for more than 50 years for what they believed is rightfully theirs, and they achieved it, through the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

It is unfortunate that these Southern Sudanese who fought hard are yet to enjoy the fruit of their hard work because their government has allowed foreigners to run the show.

The implications of this trend are many and varied. First, we are encouraging poverty and promoting overdependence on the government as the main source of employment. This is not practical. The government cannot employ everyone. Those who cannot be employed by the government will have to be employed in the private sector and such employment must be regulated by the government.

If Southern Sudanese graduates cannot be employed in the private sector and missed being employed in the government then they become jobless and this will increase unemployment.

These young men and women will not earn a living to support their families as well as themselves. They will therefore resort to crimes to make a living as demonstrated by rampant and rising cases of crimes and insecurity in Juba town and elsewhere in Southern Sudan.

The recent xenophobic attacks against foreigners in South Africa were caused by the feeling among the South Africans that the foreigners were taking over jobs that were supposed to be done by the South Africans themselves.

More than 50 immigrants mainly from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and other South Africa’s neighbouring countries were killed.

Political analysts attributed the xenophobic violence to a range of factors, including high unemployment, porous borders, one of the world's highest crime rates, poverty, police and government corruption, ineffective service delivery and an inept foreign policy in regard to resolving Zimbabwe's political impasse.