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Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

Employment of Southern Sudanese in international agencies

By Kenyi Mogga

November 16, 2006 — The employment of southern Sudanese in international agencies has become a subject of discussion these days in many circles. The activities of these agencies are also being a subject of debate. With the peace in the area many of international agencies are very visible especially in Juba Capital. But many people have noted that most of the workers in these agencies are non Sudanese. Miraya FM radio in Juba in one of its programmes was discussing the questions, why were NGOs employing none Sudanese, who is responsible for this and what should be done to have Sudanese employed in these organizations? In the Sudan Mirror news paper of July 2006 the minister for legal affairs commented on legal issues regarding the operation of NGOs in Southern Sudan.

To contribute to this debate I would like to give some historical background and comments on the operations of international agencies in southern Sudan.

Activities of international agencies became known in southern Sudan after the signing of Addis Abeba peace agreement in 1972. These agencies were carrying out rehabilitation and development work after the destruction caused by Anyanya 1 war. With the outbreak of the second war in 1983 in southern Sudan many more organizations came to assist with relief to the war and famine affected people of southern Sudan. The number of organisations dramatically increased during the drought of 1988-9 which caused famine especially in Bahr el Ghazal region where effect of the insecurity and drought was severe. A consortium of NGOs and UN agencies under the leadership of UN code named “Operation Lifeline Sudan” (OLS) was formed to assist the war and famine affected people. The consortium covered both Government of Sudan (GOS) and SPLA held areas of southern Sudan. OLS agencies operating under Sudan Peoples Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) held areas became known as the OLS southern sector while those in GOS held areas was known as OLS northern sector. The southern sector program was bigger of the two and probably because large part and population and area affected was under the SPLA and or the need was higher in the SPLA areas.

The Agencies working in the southern sector were registered and operating from the neighboring countries, which, means these agencies were working with the laws and regulations of those neighboring countries.

Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SRRC) a humanitarian organ of the SPLA/M was formed to supervise and coordinate the work the agencies. A document known as “ground rule” was produced and rectified by both leadership of SPLM and OLS. This document was used as a legal guide for SRRC and OLS agencies to follow during their implementation of the activities in southern Sudan and where people referred to resolve problems whenever they arise during the implementation.

Initially very few southern Sudanese were employed in these organisations as SPLA/M was reluctant to have southern Sudanese employed in these organisations, perhaps for fear that many Sudanese would be attracted to these organisations and run away from the military. Workers for these agencies were therefore mainly international staff from donor countries and neighboring countries where the NGO was registered. Any Sudanese directly or indirectly engaged in OLS programmes was to work as a volunteer and is given some token in form of footwear, blanket and mosquito nets or food for work like his fellow compatriots receive in the army. This is clearly demonstrated in ground rules document where SRRC had no role in the employment of agency staff.

In the northern sector, (GOS) was in control of Staff employment through humanitarian aid commission (HAC). All international agencies were to have their HQ offices in Khartoum where staff employment was carried out. This therefore did not benefit southern Sudanese in the Northern sector as the key positions were occupied by northerners in the head offices.

As time went by in the southern sector, SRRC encouraged the organizations to employ local people mainly laborers like cooks, watchmen or compound casual workers. The next initative from SRRC was to encourage agenies employ drivers, logisticians and administrators from the local community, as Sudanese were assumed to have the skills and capabilities in these jobs. However, this policy was not fully adhered to and later on over taken by the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Since there was no law or body that protects the Sudanese in their employment with the agencies, Sudanese staffs therefore were vulnerable e.g. any Sudanese could bedismissed and has no where to launch a complain, casual labourers were paid too little depending on the decisions of the NGO and virtually no sudanese was employed in the management positions of the projects. Many agencies cite lack of qualified and experienced Sudanese to work in management, but since then agencies did not take any initiative to train southern Sudanese in management. Morever, this reason is refutable since there were many Sudanese in the management of NGO programs during the peaceful period in 1972-1983 in southern Sudan. Again, if you look at the staff composition in the different agencies you would find that some agencies have a good number of Sudanese but others have none other than casual camp workers. This would suggest it is deliberate plan to engagement of Sudanese workers in the NGOs.

The SRRC organisation which was supposed to monitor and supervise the agency activities was weak, many of their staff didn’t have the necessary skills for monitoring project implementation and all of them were working without any pay and therefore vulnerable to bribes.

Since the signing of the CPA there was no clear changes seen on how these agencies working in southern should operate. Some of the agencies have created regional offices where these NGOs are currently registered and management of southern Sudan projects are still managed from these regional offices.

These days none government agencies sector plays a greater role in development and a lot of resources are chanelled through them, it is therefore imperative that the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and state governments in southern Sudan should take management of this sector very seriously. The following are therefore suggested:

– Government should provide information required for registration and operation of international agencies; if there is no legal framework for NGO operation then government should take it as a priority and come up with one.

– Government should come up with policies which ensure greater involvement of southern Sudanese and builds their capacities in management of projects in southern Sudan.

– The NGOs and donors should come up with plans and strategies that should help the authorities in southern Sudan to establish a better management system of NGOs which will help Southern Sudanese masses come out of the problems caused by war.

* The author is a Veterinarian working in Bahr el Ghazal region. He can be reached at [email protected]