The Rebirth of Capitulation System in South Sudan

BY: Mading Gum Mading, RSS, OCT/02/2013, SSN;

The system of capitulation, formerly practised in the Ottoman Empire, was designed to deal with cases involving Europeans who wished to reside, to invest, to trade, and to acquire real property in the Ottoman Empire. Under this system, the Ottoman rulers granted ‘letters of privilege’ to those Europeans.

As the Ottoman Empire began to decline in 17th Century onwards, these privileges gradually came to be regarded, at any rate by these Europeans who enjoyed them as ‘rights’ and not ‘privileges’ and were abused and exploited by the adventurers who held them in order to further their illegal as well as their legal interests.

The consequences of the system, for the empire, were far detrimental. It had enabled European smugglers to carry on their illicit trade under the eye of the law and had been turned to such base uses, described Lord Cromer, that they had protected the keeper of the gambling-hell, the vendor of adulterated drink, the receiver of stolen goods, and the careless apothecary who supplies his customer with poison in place of some healing drug.

None of this is unique to our day, of course. This is a fitting description of South Sudan situation through the eyes of many South Sudanese themselves. Unlike those endowed with the privileges in the Ottoman Empire, in this nation of Africa there is a blend of mixed nationalities representing differing interests and applying different techniques.

The system of capitulation, though in different age and place, seems to properly represent the present situation the republic of South Sudan finds itself. It began in a seemingly harmless way through privileges- floodgate of businesses- granted to foreign nationals mainly from sub-Saharan African nations and Horn of Africa, among others, to invest, work, reside and trade in South Sudan.

They subsequently subsumed themselves within the republic of South Sudan under the umbrella of investment, trade and other technical works. Owing to predominantly lack of technical skills and trained workforce to offer services the country requires, they penetrated into these opportunities in every aspect from business and employment to hacking and other illicit activities via a loosely organized economy and administration.

In due time, it became clear that a considerable proportion considered these ‘privileges’ as ‘rights’.

A recent ministerial order banning all the foreign nationals from carrying out business as motorbike riders (boda-boda) and the Ugandan parliament reaction to the order that attempted a retaliation against South Sudanese in Uganda offers a standard example of how ‘privileges’ have been regarded as ‘rights’ subject to claim under a non-existing legal instrument.

As an eye-opener for South Sudanese, the Ugandan response may have already shaken the government position in protecting South Sudanese interests.

Having already been confronted with external problems (disputes with Sudan and corruption accusations) and mounting elite fragmentation within the ruling party, the government might reconsider its position in riding of foreigners in the labor system and would try at all cost to avoid provoking the interests of the long-standing strong allies in the country.

Reform might possibly be sacrificed under these conditions and system of capitulation might flourish unhindered again.

In light of these considerations, the writer believes that South Sudan’s task of putting its internal problems in order is heavily complicated under these circumstances and on the other hand, understanding the problems attached to this boundless license to foreigners necessitate consideration.

The central problem is that the government regulations, implementation gap, for these aliens have proved inadequate in regulating the nations’ relations with them.

In this loosely governed nation, the situation has been particularly hopeless particularly in the absence of effective checks on the manner in which the privileges are exercised by those endowed with them.

As prostitution rules Juba and other cities unrestrained by any law, the state of moral decay is being nourished under the system of capitulation. As it grows up along the strides of hotels, it propels the spread of HIV/AIDs in a society that is predominantly illiterate and ignorant.

The end, in comparison to Ottoman Empire, would be horrific. Joyce Joan Wangui, a researcher from Kenya, in her classic article, vividly described the situation of foreign prostitutes in Juba when she interviewed one of them in these words:

‘Here, we sleep with anyone that looks like a man, including young boys, as long as they can part with the pounds,” says Anyango. She has no remorse for abandoning her family. On a good day, she can make 100SDG (Sh 3,145) which she considers a radical departure from the Sh100 she earned daily in Kibera, Nairobi.’

Unfortunately, many natives have already been trained into this business thus sowing the seed of immorality.

While the system systematically transforms corruption methods, it also shifts corruption from governmental institutions to private sectors as the government vigorously declares an ineffectual zero tolerance to corruption in the public domain.

At least capitulation in public domain is limited to areas of contracts and dollarized decant institutions. This has allowed the ‘Aja’nib’-foreigners- to exploit the national economy by draining its hard currency reserve through foreign-controlled commercial banks.

In these commercial banks and Forex, intended for serving the ordinary citizens, services do not adequately reach the targeted population.

Instead, scattered groups of foreign nationals and national owners, after giving out a limited figure, divide the remaining portion between them with the former share being ushered to mother country banks and the latter share ends up in the black market and their relatives pockets.

The possibility of Al-Shabab linked individuals serving their interests therein and other business related areas is not far from imagination.

Thus, we may probably sink into what made the Ottoman Empire being called the ‘sick man of Europe’ in the late 17th-18th centuries.

The weight is too much for the young nation to carry. With all these problems considered, does South Sudan qualify to be called a ‘sick man of Africa?’

I know the question is controversial, but I believe it deserves some consideration and analysis by all South Sudanese.

The clear picture of capitulation system is mirrored in hotels. From those owned by South Sudanese and rented out to foreign businessmen and those acquired and set up under leased contracts that will run out in decades, there is no difference.

Similar faces control them- Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Kenyans… etc, (photo: Pres. Kiir with Kenyans, Eritreans, Ethiopians in Juba) the disappointing thing here is that national figures, who are supposed to frame the national policy, indulge themselves in services offered therein whence family services are completely disregarded.

And in this vacuum, the sovereignty of the country is sacrificed on the altar of capitulation- insatiable material pursuit and vivid personal feelings.

In these domains of hotels, foreign commercial banks and exchange bureaus, companies, tax collections, contracts (leased agreements, rent agreements, constructions), import of goods among others, capitulation unleashes its snare of destruction without a bang but a whimper; and on these pleasure and material pursuits, South Sudan would find herself dealing with the agents and representatives of powers, some of whom are or might at future time become the enemy.

Under this status quo, the nation is placed within what Lord Cromer called ‘the cumbersome paraphernalia of internationalism’ and in the absence of a highly developed policy to avert these prospects would make governing South Sudan- now and in the future- unnecessarily difficult.

The question is whether we can have south Sudan in its present state or there should be a change in the policy of granting boundless license that make our country a hub of illicit activities.

The middle way, under these altered circumstances, may be difficult to find and requires leaders with character and audacity.

Too free a hand has already led us to serious troubles with them and robust actions have already resulted in antagonizing- to some extent- them along with their countries. Thus, the system of capitulation is reborn and we are here ‘as on a darkling plain.’

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  1. Mankien town says:

    Good, analysis for south Sudan, due to greediness from our leaders all contracts go to the foreign firms.
    please keep it up.

    Mankien Town.

  2. malith Alier says:

    It is business as usual despite such kind of advice given by well wishers like you

  3. Bhanyker says:

    beautiful article. written by somebody with know how to analyse the situation South Sudan is in at the moment. I totally agree with you 100%. This country is basically controlled by foreigners in the name of investment. The question is, what kind of investment? Is it somebody coming from Uganda with his Boda-boda to operate in South Sudan and block out our people from business, is it the investment our government talking about? In fact our country had became more popular to the foreigners, and less attractive to South Sudanese.
    Some might wonder why? The reason is simple and crystal clear, our President is looking inside the box. many things will definitely go wrong, unless the South Sudanese people said enough and act courageously to stop this visionless and blind president from taking our beloved country into turmoil.

  4. GatCharwearbol says:

    Dear Mading Gum Mading:

    Thank you so much for this splendid article. You said a mouthful. Our nation is being handed over to Foreigners by Kiir and his cabal. Once known as a nation free of HIV/AIDS now has become the home of all the diseases you can think of all because of lawlessness and lack of vision from our visionless President. Prostitutes roam the streets of Juba without any restriction. I wonder how our nation will survive from topping the list of the countries taken over by AIDS.

    I know that Kiir Mayardit and Lukudu Gatkuoth Garang who like to bath on these prostitutes will never take any action to alleviate the spread of this incurable disease. It is for them to know that President and simple minded ones are not immune to these diseases. This kind of problem is what a concerned President would deal with first instead of engaging on trivial things. Instead of Kiir putting his weight on displacing the Equatorian, it would be prudent if he puts his weight on finding ways to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS.

  5. Thank you very much Mading Gum, for a minded analytical on national issues. Our problems is misinterpretation of the term investment and everybody claimed it that they know. Also they turned national interest to self-interest where by any one can make his/her own contract with foreigners and particularly they used to attached themselves with top officials in the government. Those whom we blame are the MPs because they are the right people to address all these issues but they just scapegoat president as the only failure but they are too.

  6. Issac Deng says:

    What else can you expect from the country where all ministers down to the President and his military commanders are thieves and corrupt?

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