By Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin
OPINION – Someone should remind the new Minister some basics of foreign policy and international relations. First, in his speech to the staff of the Ministry he promised “rebranding our domestic image as an extension of our foreign policy agenda”! It is the other way around, Mr Minister. MFA doesn’t “rebrand” domestic policy. It is the mandate of the government as a whole to design the government’s programme or policy including foreign policy which is a reflection (say, extension) of the domestic policy.
The contribution of MFA, like the others in the Cabinet, is in the formulation of the programme or policy and in its implementation once adopted. The MFA will not be implementing policies of its own but those approved by the Cabinet. Second, however brilliant MFA can be in advancing foreign policy perspectives of the government in interacting with the club of nations, nothing can be achieved if the domestic utterances and actions of the government continue to be objectionable.
For instance, respect of human rights, all kinds of freedoms (speech, association, movement, etc.), honest implementation of the peace agreement, etc., are central in the consideration of many influential states in determining how to relate to the government of South Sudan. As long as these aspects continue to send out negative news and signals nothing the MFA can do to reverse the situation. Another example is the series of sanctions which had been imposed by the UNSC on government officials and the arms embargo on the government itself. The lifting of these sanctions and embargo is hinged on certain policy issues as benchmarks that could lead to the lifting. They have been specified in relevant UNSC resolutions. None of these benchmarks is the work of the MFA alone.
I haven’t come across the other statement ascribed to the Minister that he will fix foreign policy in 300 days. If true, definitely as mentioned above it will be like taking on a responsibility which is not his and which he can’t deliver on without the other ministries of government. Otherwise, and given the rate of turnover of ministers in the current regime, 10 months may be a long time in the calculation of those who might have drafted the statement.
This reminds me of a story in which a king has summoned his best teachers in the land and asked them to teach his favorite donkey English at a hefty pay. None came forward to accept the offer except one teacher but he declared that he will accept the job only if he talks confidentially to the King. The King agreed and granted him audience. After a while the teacher came back smiling.
The astonished teachers were waiting for their colleague to find out what was the secret behind such a stupid decision to accept such an impossible undertaking of teaching a donkey. He told them that the matter was simple. He had told the King that he needs 20 years to teach his donkey to a good level and the King agreed. He went on: in the 20 years, either the donkey, or me or the King will be not be around!
Dr. Lam Akol was a member of the Council of the Khartoum University Teachers Union (KUTU) which, as member of the Trade Unions Alliance (TUA), led the March/April Uprising in 1985. He is currently the Chairman of the opposition National Democratic Movement (NDM) and Secretary-General of South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA). Following him on Twitter HERE!
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