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The Labour Policy Change in South Sudan: Celebrated at Home but Decried across the Borders

By Jok Ayuen Mabior

September 19, 2014 (SSNA) -- The recent circular from South Sudan’s Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Human Resource that outlined the labour policy has raised eyebrows, even garnered fury with some people.  Indeed, it prompted what used to be a refutable news outlet, the NTV Kenya, to brand South Sudanese as “Thankless kids”.  And another Kenyan journalist exaggeratedly likened the policy to that of Idi Amin’s expulsion of Asians and Indians from Uganda in 1972.

Why the new policy has engendered such feelings from our neighbours? The policy (or lack of it) that favoured foreign nationals has existed for a long time. In addition, the breadth of the coverage of the new policy would make one understand why there have been such angry reactions in Kenya and Uganda.

Indeed, the government should not have expected that it would be all smiles with this policy change. If you have been offering food to someone for a long time, he or she will think something is wrong with you when you abruptly cease to do that. Therefore, government should have explained more the justification for the policy change, even when it is too obvious.

However, one would strain his or her nerves very hard to understand why Kenyans and Ugandans always react the way they do to events pertaining the interest of their fellow citizens in South Sudan. Their first favourite reaction is always a comical name calling that South Sudanese are blacker than they are. Although, it is literally a case of a kettle calling a pot black, it is a very unfortunate way of resolving disagreements.

Their other reaction is an emotional call for retaliatory measures. Indeed, the fact that there are thousands of South Sudanese residing and studying in Kenya and Uganda is always pointed out. However, one thing suffices to be said about this. Those South Sudanese who are residing or studying in Kenya and Uganda are spending their own money in Kenya—paying for rents, food, and education.

That South Sudanese are living in those countries is another life tube for the economies of Kenya and Uganda. So, expelling South Sudan’s citizens would not hurt South Sudanese the way it would to these countries (i.e., if established that residing and studying of South Sudanese in these countries was a quid pro quo for their citizens’ working in their South Sudan).

Further, the fact that South Sudan had received help from these neighbouring countries in the past has entered into the psyches of some citizens of these countries. They fail to find any rational argument whenever they feel aggrieved by actions of South Sudanese authorities. These people juvenilely argue that South Sudan must always respect and protect their interests at the expense of its own, simply because their countries had hosted (continue to do so) South Sudanese during their struggles. As for Kenyans in particular, the fact that Kenya midwifed peace agreement that led to South Sudan’s independence is taken a source of entitlement. A credit to be paid perpetually.

To be fair, South Sudan’s neighbours had helped her in one way or the other. Some had hosted our refugees and while others offered us political and military assistance. In fact, South Sudan as a country will always be grateful for that. However, the citizens of these countries, especially Kenyans, must be reminded that it was not every South Sudan who had been a refugee there had a pleasant experience.

The fourth reaction is around the fact that South Sudan is aspiring to join the East African Community (the EAC) shown by its application to join the bloc. This is taken to mean that South Sudan should have by now begun to treat any citizen from the EAC counties like its citizens. That is why those who are dissatisfied with the new policy argue that there should not be any restrictions on the employment of their fellow citizens.

However, they need to be reminded of these facts. First, the EAC has a long way to go as political integration is concerned. Equal treatment of member states’ citizens has to wait for that development. Indeed, the existing countries of the EAC do not have the open door labour policy. In this regard, South Sudan is not alone in preferring the interests of its citizens. Second, equal treatment of the Citizens of the EAC this is not requirement for joining the EAC. Thirdly, if joining the EAC have to be at the expense of South Sudanese, it would be easy for South Sudanese to say “to hell with EAC”.

Back to the complaint. Does South Sudan have to permanently subordinate its interests and obligations to its citizens to show gratefulness? The simple answer is no.

The long explanation of that answer is this. Every community, society or nation-state has a right to maximise the interests of its citizens. South Sudan, like any other country, has a primary obligation towards its citizens. This is the very reason for the existence of the state of South Sudan—protecting the best interests of its general populace. Its government has a mandate and a responsibility to make policy choices and regulations that best serve interests of the citizens. This includes allowing foreign nationals to work in South Sudan in areas where local expertise is lacking, and preferring the employment of locals where it is expedient to do so. 

However, South Sudan government has been a “no-show” in this endeavour since 2005, understandably so. There were few confident South Sudanese to fill in those positions back then. But that is different now.

Sadly, this open door policy has been abused. The NGOs and big business corporations have used this as unquestioned right to import workers outside the countries, and in most cases employing up to 100% foreigners as their staffers. Indeed, the flawed argument is that there are still no qualified South Sudanese for such positions. However, the only way to find out whether there are no educated locals is by opening those jobs to them. If no one applies for such jobs, then the NGO’s and business companies will be justified to hire outside the country.

Their other justification is that South Sudanese are lazy. Uncritical and insulting as it seems, it is a deliberate ploy to keep South Sudanese away from those lucrative jobs. However, it is a non-starter. It is the same South Sudanese so described who want those jobs! Why complain?

Overall, our neighbours need to know that South Sudanese are generous people. And they do not hate others. What is happening is that South Sudan is struggling with high unemployment. What can the government do?

Our neighbours need to enter inside South Sudan’s skin to understand the necessity of this policy. Ordinary citizens have been crying out for the change. However, the status quo was maintained due to inactiveness of the policymakers.

Two factors necessitate the revision of the labour policy in South Sudan. Let’s start from the obvious one. First, South Sudan economy that depends on oil has been badly affected by the ongoing senseless violence in the country. This has accentuated the unemployment situation in the country—awakening the government from its slumber-like complacency.

The second factor, and which depends on the first, is the level of youth unemployment in the country. There has been a steady increase in unemployment rate in the country. This coincides with the returns of educated South Sudanese from regional universities in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. They have no places in these countries since the governments there are also struggling with high unemployment rates among their youthful populations. Indeed, all these years, South Sudan has been the one assisting these neighbouring countries with keeping down of their unemployment rates while its own skyrocketed.

Logically, South Sudanese had to return home in droves, but only to find no jobs awaiting them at home. The private sector and NGO’s jobs are the preserves the foreigners. At the same time, the public sector, which has overwhelmingly been the employer, had reached a saturation point long time ago. Still, this has been aggravated by the fact that its sole source of revenue in the oil sectors is now operating below its expected capacity.

Should the government have turned a blind eye to this as it have been doing in the past? No! A prudent government must look for ways and means of alleviating this acute problem. In fact, the function of the labour ministry is to minimise the impact of high influxes of foreign workers in its labour market. Therefore, a current shift in the labour policy is a good decision in a right direction. It might have come too late in the day, but better late than never.

However, some caveats have to be made about the circular. First, the language of the circular is an alarmist. It is tantamount to an ultimatum. Its language portrays it as a knee-jerk policy from someone who has been sleeping on the problem and has unjust woke up to the sound of alarm bell tied to his or her door post.

A policy of this nature should have been carefully formulated and communicated in a manner that would minimise misunderstanding that might ensue from it. The introduction of the policy should have a gradual process that would culminate in having certain percentages of NGO’s and corporations workers given to South Sudanese.

Secondly, the policy would have benefit from consultation. The NGO’s and business are equal stakeholders with the government in serving the people of South Sudan. The government needed to have consulted with these stakeholders. However, the nature of the circular—its language and presentation—suggests that little has been done by way of consultation with these stakeholders. It is a flaw that is noticeable.

Thirdly, the new policy affects real people with real financial fears. As such, a person responsible for this policy needed to have realised that those positions they demanded to be given to South Sudan are being filled by people with families to feed— even when they are foreign nationals. Thus, it was irresponsible to put out a circular that demanded termination of these jobs overnight.

Having mentioned those caveats, should our neighbours feel aggrieved?  Of course, they should. There is nothing wrong with their sense of entitlement, even though many South Sudanese may take exception to that.  But, of course, that sense of entitlement has to be regulated by the host government. Therefore pairing it with Amin’s expulsion of Indians from Uganda is a sensationist and over exaggerated characterisation of that policy. 

Therefore, the reactions from the neighbours are unwarranted. There is nothing xenophobic about the policy. Nobody is being expelled from South Sudan as some journalists in Kenya and Uganda are irresponsibly portraying in their slants.

This policy change will bring South Sudan labour policy in line with the practices in countries where employers have to seek work permits and to “show cause” why there is a need to hire staff outside the country. The existing practice in which South Sudanese are simply overlooked is not sustainable, given the circumstances the country is in. Maintaining the status quo is not only in ignorant of the change in South Sudan’s labour market, it also amounts to an insult to the citizens of South Sudan. Furthermore, preferring foreign workers to local people where there is no proper justification, as it is currently the case, is a gross injustice. A caring government (or even an opportunistic one) would see a reason for a policy change in these circumstances.

A policy change is warranted. The proposed policy will serve the interests of both foreign nationals as well as South Sudanese—making them both happy.

The author could be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Undermining South Sudanese expertises is Ironical!

By Peter Gai Manyuon

September 19, 2014 (SSNA) -- The recent order from the Ministry of Labor and Public Service in the Republic of South Sudan that was issued on 16th of September 2014 is absolute enough, appropriate and welcoming by the entire South Sudanese globally unless those who lack intellectual dynamism in them can disputes the Ministerial order.

Comprehensively, South Sudan as the Newest Nation in Africa has become an employment ground for all the people who came from Asia, Europe, America, India and different African Countries for the last Ten years. Most of the professionals South Sudanese who studied abroad have been pushed out from jobs due to what some people called lack of professionalism within nationals, which is not appropriate.

Hence, the ideology of under-estimating the literacy among the South Sudanese who have studied in different parts of the World is an abuse/insult of the citizen rights and obligation in the newest nation.

Absolutely, since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that was signed on the 9th of January 2005, there have been a good numbers of foreigners who have dominated jobs opportunities in the Southern Sudan by then and subsequently until the Independence of the Republic of South Sudan which was declare on the 9th of July 2011.

Sixty percent (60%) of the employees in the new Republic are foreigners who claimed of having skills in different disciplines. Where will you find in the whole world the number of foreigners is beyond the nationals in workplace? Is South Sudan a country of global people or for South Sudanese who have suffered for twenty one years during civil war? Realistically, did Uganda, Kenya and other part of the world help in contributing human beings to fight dictatorial regime of the North Sudan during the civil war? Is it wrong if South Sudanese Nationals are considers first at the jobs opportunities in South Sudan? Is South Sudan a Country for all East African Community or a Country which has inhabitants?

However, the number of expatriates that came to South Sudan after Independence have increased greatly due to what the World Bank estimate in their research where they mentioned the number of South Sudanese who when to school as 27% which I can term as vogues and exploitation policy of research.

Truly speaking, in South Sudan there are numerous South Sudanese citizens who always graduate yearly in different parts of the World including East Africa like Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and the world at large. The numbers of graduates are thousands and thousands compare to 2005 when the Peace deal was signed. Who are you to says, South Sudanese are not experts in Education system globally?   Are your senses functioning really?

Are those who are under-estimating informs upstairs about the progress of South Sudanese as per education system is concern yearly?

Moreover, this issue of saying most of South Sudanese are illiterate is one way of exploiting and this is the right time for South Sudanese to disapprove claims from those who want to still resources indirectly.

Besides, the numbers of Professors, Doctors in different disciplines in the Republic of South Sudan are beyond other countries that got Independence some years back. If you want financial Analysts, Computer wizards, Journalists, Public Relation Officers, Political Analysts, Legal Experts, Engineers and different categories of experts, the newest nation have got good percentage.

I have one hundred percent (100%) agree with the order, those who have not carry out proper research about the people who have gone to school in South Sudan should take it from me, enough is enough. Some organizations like World Bank estimate the percent in their interest. Who told you the literate South Sudanese are 27%.  Well, interpretation is always full of Assumptions.

More interestingly, in South Sudan, you find a hotel is managed from the top to cleaners by Foreigners, Banks as well like Equity, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), Stanbic Bank and many more….are being run by foreigners who call themselves experts.

And on other hand, most of International Organizations are for foreigners in South Sudan. Is South Sudan for Kenyans, Ugandans, Ethiopians, and different categories from globe?

Keys points to notes

One of the remarkable points to note is the issue of taxes increment in all part of work place  can force the foreigners from working in South Sudan, if imposes on them highly. South Sudan government should come out with the new policy to charges all foreigners with high taxes so that they leave the newest nation quickly.

Restriction of giving Visas in Diplomatic Embassies can as well reduced number of foreigners working in South Sudan.  Government can reduce numbers of foreigners entering South Sudan by giving instructions to the diplomatic offices to screen and increase the visas fees to 300 dollars and as well the work permits need revision.

The Author is an Independent Journalist and Columnist who has written extensively on issues of Democratization and Human Rights in South Sudan. He can be contact on or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Will the Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Human Resource Development Order to Replace Aliens with National Employees be implemented?

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.

Juma Mabor Marial is a Trainee Advocate based in Juba, reachable at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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