South Sudan’s inept diplomacy: The case of the embassy in USA


(Juba, South Sudan) – In an attempt to educate the world about how the infant country of South Sudan might have fared during its first year of independence, the country’s embassy in the United States of America produced a 2-page press release, publishing it on July 9th. Though the intention of such briefing is deservingly essential, the product’s quality could not be any shoddier, depressing our diplomatic image in the United States. I make efforts to correct such an intellectual anomaly that bogs down our diplomacy by providing more authoritative evidence.

The evidence documented is grossly damaging for the nation’s diplomatic leadership and its greater constituency, for it is barely informative, plainly irresponsible, and overtly fooling. In the Embassy’s pursuit to shed light on some key progress that the country might have made in a 12-month period of independence, it supplied below to the world the worst kind of supporting evidence:

Some of the more notable milestones of the first year are; decreased the overall poverty level in the country from 99% to 52%, instituted freedom of the press guidelines, formed an anti-corruption and human rights commission, established official rule of law and citizen redress, 65% of school age children male and female are being educated, reduced child mortality rate from 92% to 52%, female representation mandate in place minimum 25% in every institution including presidential cabinet, offered $ US2.5 billion to Sudan to be paid over next 6yrs– gesture would make South Sudan the largest single neighbor donor in Africa, broke ground on an alternate oil pipeline to be completed in next 30 months.

The evidence is extraordinarily troubling because it is outright wrong and lacks intuition or instinct. Existing evidence contradicts all that has been provided here. Given example, the South Sudanese childhood mortality is not 52 percent nor had it ever reached that level since the 1950s when the region’s mortality regime was first documented; instead, it is 1.05 percent; net attendance of school age children is 28.9 percent, not 65 percent (Sudan Household Health Survey, 2010); of the 29 Juba ministerial posts, only 13.8 percent of them are held by women, not 25 percent; those below the poverty line stand at 51 percent (NBHS, 2009). Similarly, Juba offered $2.6b, not $2.5b in its peace settlement with Khartoum.     

Suggesting that last year 92 out of 100 live births were dying in South Sudan is absurd, depriving the analysis of any sense of intuition. Even in the face of true change occurring—assuming that some society somewhere might have had such mortality regime—there is no way any human system—ancient or current—would make such a drastic progress only in a single year. Although there is a specialized technical aspect to this, it should all be dictated by a priori, a toolkit our Embassy shows it might be lacking.

Worse still, the Embassy failed to reference the sources of unfolding evidence, a recipe of bad science, equally suggesting an enfeebled or incompetent South Sudanese diplomacy in the United States. The Embassy probably lacks knowledge on the availability of the nation’s statistical institution, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which assists in providing more authoritative evidence on a variety of development indicators.

In a nutshell, these shoddy statistics only beget poor intellectual products, equally reflecting on the capacity/image of South Sudanese diplomatic leadership and its entire membership. For better releases/products in this context, use of right people and information for the right job, is suggested.  


Augustino Ting Mayai is Research Director for the Sudd Institute in Juba, South Sudan.


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