Expeditionary Diplomacy in Southern Sudan

Posted by Clint Fenning
June 26, 2011
Clinton Fenning and Colleagues With Wulu County and Wildlife Protection Services Officials

In Southern Sudan, every aspect of life presents its people with opportunities to move forward together, building the foundation of a new nation. On my recent deployment there to support the U.S. government's work to ensure the region's peaceful transition to an independent country, I learned that even the smallest everyday decisions people make have an impact on the future of Southern Sudan.

The Civilian Response Corps's work supports the U.S. Consulate General in Juba by applying a blend of traditional and expeditionary diplomatic tools to partner with what will become the world's newest nation. Along with other Corps members, I regularly visit the most remote regions of Southern Sudan to expand and develop relationships with everyone from state governors to tribal elders, as well as international partners and civil society organizations, to support the U.S. government's intensified diplomatic and development efforts. In Southern Sudan, this is no easy task. We must fly, drive, and walk in order to arrive at a key meeting -- perhaps with a tribal chief and often under the shade of a tree -- to better grasp the country's many challenges and opportunities.

To help carry out this mission, I spend the majority of my time travelling to three bordering states in Southern Sudan: Unity, Warrap, and Lakes. All three are connected by complex conflict issues such as ever-present cross-border cattle raiding -- a source of income, identity and conflict -- in addition to issues that stem from North-South relations with Khartoum. Part of my job is to understand the most pressing conflict dynamics the states are facing, and report on how these issues might affect U.S. government policy and programs.

For example, fellow Civilian Response Corps members James Patton and Marie Pace and I spent a seven-hour drive over arduous roads accompanied by the Wildlife Police, County Commissioner and the Lakes State's Advisor for Peace and Reconciliation to explore how state authorities are managing its natural resources, which can be a driver of conflict or a tool for economic growth and stabilization, in the Wulu County national park.

In the park, we saw four hippos as well as opportunities for micro-businesses in honey and Shea butter, but perhaps more importantly, the ride allowed us to build a relationship with local officials. We not only discussed how they plan to manage the national park but also explored how they approach security and governance in the country. This is the kind of diplomacy that helps the United States prevent conflict and promote regional stability in complex and fragile environments, such as Southern Sudan, by partnering with local leaders to think through the complex challenges they face. It takes this kind of persistent, face-to-face contact to really gain an understanding of the pivotal issues.

We organized our trip to give the newly appointed county commissioner an opportunity to meet constituents and extend the reach of government. Throughout the tour, he was able to connect directly to the people of Wulu County and give them a chance to connect to their government.

The people of Southern Sudan know that they are at a crucial point in their country's history. The next few months will determine the shape of the world's newest democracy and the fragile peace it promises to a society ravaged by decades of war. While the nation certainly faces many challenges, I was inspired by the resiliency I saw in the Sudanese.



ian i.
July 1, 2011

Ian in Belgium writes:

Chinese Agent pushes up cost of development in South Sudan

Transparency International and the NGO, Corruption Watch, both issued statements today expressing their serious concern at the way the cost of much needed developmental projects in South Sudan are being pushed up by a Singaporean agent purportedly acting on behalf of Chinese contractors
The agent identified as Robin Ong, has reportedly negotiated commissions in excess of ten percent of contract value with Chinese contractors including CNOOC which is bidding for a pipeline contract, China State Construction which is bidding for a dam project and several road and bridge projects, China railways which is bidding for rail projects and CAMCE which is bidding for cement plants and agro industries processing units.
These projects total almost two billion US dollars and Ong’s commission payments exceed US$ two hundred million. This is money that is being diverted from priority development projects and into the pockets of corrupt officials and politicians in South Sudan.
Ong is reported to have paid for lavish trips to Malaysia and China for the Vice President Riek Machar and the Minister of Mines and Energy Garang Diing. He has also paid for trips to Macau by the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Stephen Dhieu .
In a leaked letter to CNOOC, seen by Corruption watch, Ong states “ My partners in S.Sudan, Gen Riek Machar and Gen Tut Deng Yat are two of the most powerful men in the country. Gen Machar, who is the Vice President, will soon be the President, and even now takes all decisions in the Government. I have been mandated by him personally to act as his advisor on all contracts with Asian companies……….”
Corruption Watch has appealed to The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, who has a reputation for not tolerating corruption, to rein in the activities of commission agents who are poisoning the body politic of the soon to be independent country. In a press release today, Jonathan De Mobray, the CEO of Corruption Watch said “ at a time when thousands of South Sudanese have no food, water or shelter, it is incredible that ministers in the S.South Sudanese government appear to be actively conniving with an agent to siphon off much needed funds”. He has called upon the US State Department and The Chinese government to thoroughly investigate the activities of Mr.Ong and take appropriate action


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