Another week in Juba, and in the office things seem the same; e-mails come and e-mails go, deadlines come and deadlines go, we go jogging at UNMISS and we go to the pub. Meanwhile there's something slightly frightening looming.
The government here have decided that they want to 'Sudanise' all jobs up to 'Manager' level, that is, hire a national to cover these roles. At present, all jobs up to 'officer' level are entirely staffed by Sudanese, apart from my role, because I work for free! So, the government want to replace all manager level jobs in human resources, logistics, finance and other such things with Sudanese staff. In the near future there's also the intention to Sudanise all jobs up to Country Director level, although I'm unsure of their timeframe for this.
The expats (Brits, Kenyans, Ugandans, Ethiopians and Malawians) who are currently in these roles, when applying to extend their work visas (the visas we have are only valid for 3-6 months) are currently being asked to leave the country or come to the ministry to defend their jobs, i.e. why it is not possible to find a Sudanese person with the same skills. The ministry want to be involved in all interview processes going forward, and NGOs have to pay the ministry for their time.
Next week, several of these roles are planned to be advertised, and those currently working in the roles will need to sit and wait to see if there'll be a South Sudanese national who meets the job spec. When people don't apply for the jobs, the ministry ask NGOs to keep advertising, and if interviewees don't meet the standards, it has been know for NGOs to be asked to lower the standards of the job spec.
In principle, I believe that it's good for INGOs to be staffed by nationals from the countries they're functioning in. There are many reasons why this is a good thing which I won't list here. Our current national staff are brilliant, they've been educated in other neighbouring countries or refugee camps, and I believe that given time they'll have built the capacity to move up and thrive in the Manager roles. As an international NGO, this is what we want; to improve the capacity of the work force so that the internationals can step back and take their resources elsewhere. However, South Sudan has been engaged in 2 civil wars since 1955 (the first civil war from 1955-1972 and second civil war from 1983-2005, ending in the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement), and I feel like it's a bit too early to be kicking out the expat human resources. Many NGOs wouldn't want to risk their reputations by forcibly taking on staff who are not able to do the roles to international standards, or who need a lot of capacity building to meet these standards, and many donors will be reluctant to donate to organisations where International HQ's are made to manage from afar. Also, that the expat staff are asked to leave with little or no notice period means that any sort of meaningful hand-over of roles, or capacity building of the new staff members within the organisation will be impossible.
In health alone, South Sudan has some of the worst humanitarian indicators in the world, and our Health Advisor tells me that NGOs currently provide roughly 85% of the health services here. What will happen to the country if these NGOs can't function anymore because they're weighed down by taking on a considerable number of new and, in some cases, inadequately skilled staff force.
Perhaps I sound too negative about this, and I think I would be less concerned if I felt that the push to Sudanise all the NGO roles was on a reasonable basis. But, somehow, the ruthlessness of the application of this decision, and the preference within the ministry to lower job specs and employ less competent national staff over employing an expat staff, makes me doubt the motives of this policy and worry how this will impact the people of South Sudan who currently receive NGO services.