United Nations, State Crafting & Failure: Is UN so righteous to throw the first stone to the sinful South Sudan?

By Jacob Dut Chol, Political Science lecture, Juba Univ., South Sudan, FEB/28/2015, SSN;

“So no matter where it takes hold, government of people and by people sets a single standard for all who would hold power. You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy” President Barack Obama, Cairo June 4, 2009;

The voyage of South Sudan State Crafting and Consolidation has been a multifaceted endeavor involving all the stakeholders. South Sudan in September 2011 ratified the United Nations Charter and became 193rd member, received applauds for joining International Government. Many UN agencies have been supporting the people of South Sudan before the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement, during the interim period and towards the independence of South Sudan.

These supports have been spelt out in various mandates UN agencies are executing in South Sudan. For instance, UNDP mandate has been building strong accountable institutions of the governance, rule of law and service delivery while UNMISS initial mandate ranges from protection of civilians, human rights monitoring & reporting and support for the establishment and extension of accountable State authority.

Now, the UNMISS mandate has been restricted to protection of civilians, human rights monitoring and reporting, leaving out extension to accountable State authority. Although these mandates sound glaring, they should not make UNDP and UNMISS so righteous to the extent of throwing the first stone to the sinful South Sudan.

Why is it so? Why is the UN, preferably UNDP and UNMISS could not be the first to throw stone to the crumbling South Sudan? Are they not accomplice in South Sudan State wobbling? Who is holier than thou in South Sudan State crafting and failure?

This short analysis shall argue that even though UNDP and UNMISS have aided in South Sudan State crafting, they have equally contributed to South Sudan State deconstruction making the country to stay on the run ways for this long. Thus two analyses of institutional building and political expedient are critical for this piece.

To begin with, institutional building has been one of the core areas where UNDP and UNMISS have contributed so far in South Sudan State crafting. To be sure, UNDP established its offices across the ten states as early as 2006 to build the government structures and accountability system with a special support to the office of the President.

In the office of the President, many advisors contracted by UNDP and assigned to help strengthen accountability system and coach staff to manage decentralization and inter-governmental linkages could not fix the system well.

In the state levels, each advisor either on governance, development, rule of law, peace, economy & finance, gender or health issues has been embedded at the Governor’s Office, Ministry of Finance, Law Enforcement, Judiciary, Physical Infrastructures, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, Gender & Social Welfare to mention but a few to help building robust systems that could enhance accountability, transparency and service delivery.

Indeed, UNDP helped in building and rehabilitating State Police Offices, Prison Services and Judiciary and so on. These endeavors, managed by the UNDP Support to States Project helped in charting the State crafting in the desired direction. The deployment of more than 280 specialists through both the Rapid Capacity Placement Initiative (RCPI) and IGAD projects has gone a long way in providing much needed coaching and mentoring support of durable nature and enabled accountability for UNDP’s programming.

However, UNDP is viewed to have contributed to South Sudan State failure. A compelling argument is that with the presence of UNDP advisors to the governments at the ten states and even within the highest office of the President, rule of law and accountability systems are still to be fully instituted. Yet, UNDP has attracted billions of dollars in tandem to South Sudan State Crafting and Reconstruction. Much of these dollars has been allocated to Policy Work, Service Delivery and Capacity Building.

Policy work and service delivery aside, the idea of ‘Capacity Building’ has been a tool used to solicit funds from the Development Community. UNDP and other NGOS have been quite passionate about this idea. However, ‘Capacity Building’ has been a practice of ‘Capacity Sucking out’. The Development Community comes so richly endowed and full of capacities that it tends to crowd out rather than complement the extremely weak state capacities of the targeted countries.

This means that while the governance functions are performed, indigenous capacity does not increase; and the countries in question are likely to revert to their former situations once the international development community loses interest or moves to the next crisis area.

Thus ‘capacity sucking out’ of UNDP and NGOs in South Sudan context could apply to the aforementioned argument and moreover refers to drawing out the most qualified South Sudanese from the Government to work at UN offices, resulting in a brain-drained situation at the Government of South Sudan.

The provision of on job mentoring and coaching, technical trainings and fostering South Sudanese linkages through the deployment of regional civil servants to government institutions has not only suffocated the lowly skilled staff but also made them redundant. However, not only that the hypocrisy of ‘capacity building’ has been quite perturbing, the participation of donor community in the destruction of capacity through institutional neglect is a case in the nascent African State.

So in South Sudan, it is probable to argue that true emphasize on capacity building is another form of “tough love” to quote Francis Fukuyama, that, like conditionality, is very hard for well-intentioned people to actually it carryout. So what we get in the meantime is lip service to the importance of capacity building and the continued displacement of institutional capacity by outside donors.

Thus this conundrum does not go away but in fact becomes most severe when external leverage comes through nation-building rather than arms-length conditionality. Although the development community knows how to supply government services, it knows much less how to create self-sustaining indigenous institutions.

Drawing indigenous institutions deficit in South Sudan, UNDP appeared as a foreign own institution, The UNDP cadres’ development has been skewed towards maintenance of foreign staff at the highest levels with national staff at the middle and lowest levels. For example, UNDP South Sudan does have a few national specialists and team leaders while international staff dominated the top management of the development agency.

As a matter of capacity appreciation, Deputy Country Director could have gone to the highly experienced South Sudanese national given the availability pool of this expertise but this has not been the case with UNDP South Sudan. Although this state of affairs has not been realized as an ingredient of UNDP failure towards South Sudan State crafting, the gravity of denying nationals senior management portfolios has equally failed the development agency in realizing it goals and outcomes.

This comes in the form of government institutions viewing UNDP as a foreign managed entity that does not promotes “we feeling” and thus received apathy in implementation of projects. Most of foreign staffs go home every month with Hugh chunk of money including decent house allowances and air tickets that are not given to even more experienced and qualified South Sudanese nationals. This lavish pay has created ‘Development Tourism” whereby the international staff enjoy their stay in South Sudan as development tourists rather than partners in meaningful development.

On political expedient analysis, UNMISS comes handy in understanding its roles in South Sudan State crafting and failure. Wait a minute, UNMISS contributed to both South Sudan reconstruction and fragility. To be exact, one cannot forget the applauding efforts UNMISS showcased in averting genocide during December 2013 political ignominy.

Having accommodated over four hundred thousand civilians during the political crisis in Bentiu, Malakal, Bor and Juba Protection Camps, UNMISS appeared as serious stakeholder in South Sudan State crafting and consolidation. But again did the UNMISS response on time? Why is it that majority of civilians were lynched in Bor, Akobo, Bentiu, Malakal and Juba in presence of large UNMISS troops? Could that really be a strategic neglect on the side of UNMISS?

Even though UNMISS averted large-scale genocide, it has really allowed deaths of very many poor South Sudanese in their watch during the power pursuit skirmishes. The leitmotif that civilians have to run to the UNMISS compounds to seek protection does not make protection really protection. Yet the responsibility to protect should be exercised to the civilians that have not run to the UNMISS precinct.

Despite this, it is fair to say that UNMISS contribution to South Sudan State reconstruction is historical. Not only did UNMISS reign its glory on the protection of civilians, it had also contributed in strengthening the capacities of police force and prison services and modest infrastructure development such as upgrading of rough roads.

Nonetheless, UNMISS has been viewed to have contributed to South Sudan State crumbling from the onset of the inking of Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). SOFA gives UNMISS personnel exclusive rights of travelling everywhere in South Sudan without any restriction, control of UNMISS special terminal at Juba International Airport (JIA) and implementation of their work programmes without governmental approval.

Unfortunately, the SOFA has been abused, thrown under the carpet by some individuals in the UNMISS in tandem of dodging the responsibility and genuine support to South Sudan State Crafting. For instance, it is alleged that some UNMISS contractors would stay after their contracts have expired to do other illicit businesses.

Moreover, some contractors would bring in their girlfriends and boyfriends to South Sudan on the pretext that they are UN contractors. This has not only been a pitfall on the implementation of SOFA, but also other serious posers have been associated with the trashing of SOFA. An allegation has it that many UNMISS staff have been trading dollars in the black market with even some found with sophisticated machines of faking dollars.

What is more, given the exclusive freedom of control of its terminal in JIA, some UNMISS individuals have been alleged to have smuggled in some prohibited drugs to South Sudan soil. Is this really being holy to throw the first stone to South Sudan?

Still connected to free traveling inside South Sudan without hindrance and together with SOFA’s clause of UNMISS assets not to be inspected, UNMISS did a serious misstep in its history in the world. The impoundment of UNMISS trucks by a nationalist soldier in Rumbek while transporting assaults of military hardware leveled as humanitarian goods to Bentiu, is attestation to this claim.

Although the UNMISS management including the UN Secretary General apologized for this as gravest mistake arguing that the trucks were wrongly leveled and weapons destined for Ghanaian Battalion’s in Bentiu, the damage of this incident could not exonerate anything else but rather pinpoint UNMISS as having an intended plan for South Sudan State failure not candid crafting. Although the government has equally bruised UNMISS and breached the SOFA either, the government response has been perhaps done under deep-seated suspicion.

Given the above elucidated arguments on UNDP and UNMISS, it is plausible concluding that UN should not throw the first stone to sinful South Sudan for the very reason that it has equally sinned and deserved to undertake technical and political repentant.

The UN agencies should be more vigilant about their mandates and programmes so as to eschew programmes duplication, overstretching donors funding and over-stepping on the Government toe. Although the Government has its shortcomings and indeed sinned, UNDP and UNMISS are not righteous entities.

Mr. Chol is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Political Science, University of Juba and PhD Candidate of State Crafting and Institutional Design (Political Engineering) in Post-Political Crisis Societies. He can be reached at dutsenior@yahoo.com

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