By Mayen D.M.A Ayarbior, Juba, South Sudan
March 20, 2017 (SSB) — After last week’s Council of Ministers meeting we learned that South Sudan will establish a Ministry of East African Affairs. It is not too late to look at the pros and cons of such a decision. Considering that the peace agreement stipulated a specific number of Ministries and Commission as-well-as the costs involved in establishing a whole new ministry at this time of economic meltdown, people must be thinking about the usefulness of the new Ministry.
On one side, some analyses against the move would suggest that establishing specialized departments (Department of East African Affairs) at relevant Ministries such as those of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Trade and Commerce should be sufficient for handling various EAC related tasks. Alternatively, something like a Commission might also be sufficient.
In spite of the fact that the different economic, political, and security engagements with member states of the EAC may be (indeed are) unique, the countries therein remain sovereign. As such, bilateral and multilateral engagements with EAC members could just be special responsibilities of line ministries. This would avoid duplication of national responsibilities between line ministries and the new Ministry of EAC affairs.
Most of the relations between member states of EAC are connected to trade. A question would arise as to what part of such trade would be handled by the Ministry of Trade as compared to that of the new Ministry of EAC Affairs?
What about the Department of Customs in the Ministry of Interior. What would be the nature of duplicated responsibilities between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and EAC Affairs? Many more arguments could be developed along that line.
On the other side, those for the move may contend that South Sudan’s accession to EAC has created a whole new sphere of regional relations. These will mainly include new trade rules that would distinguish EAC goods and services operating in South Sudan from those owned by non-EAC nationals.
The types of work permits, residency ‘rights,’ trade dispute resolution mechanisms, etc. will require specialized treatment and handling. For example, if a trade dispute emerges between an EAC corporation and a South Sudanese tycoon it may reach the EAC court. It would involve Customs Departments, Ministries of Trade, and even Foreign Affairs of the two countries. Wouldn’t South Sudan’s case be stronger and more cohesive if it is handled by a single specialized body which is vested with different powers?
Because of the unique demands of Economic Community association, it would be in place that a whole national Ministry is created for handling various but related issues. A body whose main responsibility might include: coordinating various EAC issues with line Ministries in the country and representing such issues in a single document.
For a far but relevant example, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the U.S. were mainly a failure of coordination between various Federal security related agencies. The FBI, CIA, Customs and Immigration, and many more had operated in isolation without any linkages.
All necessary intelligence were available to prevent the 9/11 attacks, yet they were scattered in isolated federal bodies. That failure in information sharing necessitated the creation of the U.S. Department (Ministry) of Homeland Security to amalgamate information and intelligence gathering into one federal institution. Many more arguments could be developed along this line in favor of the Ministry of EAC Affairs.
In conclusion, as I keep my inconsequential judgment to myself, it would be necessary to say that the Ministry should be given to someone to a personality that is highly informed of the magnitude of the task ahead.
A person, for example, like Agrey Tisa Sabuni could be a suitable choice because of his instrumental role in the country’s accession to EAC. He has almost single-handedly led the accession negotiation process until the country defied the odds to become a full member of the body. And even though he has been one of those behind the disastrous managed float policy which plunged our economy into crises, it is impossible to dispute his high intellectual capacity and deep understanding of EAC issues. Of course, other South Sudanese of his caliber are there.
Considering that EAC is run by mentally sophisticated people from the member states, some of the usual embarrassing and almost stereotypical politicians of the country should not come close to the new Ministry if it is to succeed. It cannot be for ‘accommodation’.
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