Registration process for South Sudanese returnees and Sudanese refugees at the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) in Lakes State in July 2023 (File photo: Radio Tamazuj)

Opinion | Citizens must rally against unfair job practices

The South Sudanese government has failed in safeguarding job opportunities for its citizens, prioritizing foreign workers over locals. Foreign employees dominate both public and private sectors, leaving South Sudanese citizens relegated to labourer roles. As the general election approaches, citizens must take swift action to address this issue.

The South Sudanese government has failed in safeguarding job opportunities for its citizens, prioritizing foreign workers over locals. Foreign employees dominate both public and private sectors, leaving South Sudanese citizens relegated to labourer roles. As the general election approaches, citizens must take swift action to address this issue.

It is evident that foreign directors and managers occupy key positions, limiting the prospects for South Sudanese nationals. The government appears complacent, overlooking its responsibility to create job opportunities and allowing corruption to thrive through kickbacks and bribery.

The lack of representation of South Sudanese communities in decision-making processes is a fault, leading to a catastrophic situation where national interests are abandoned. The medium-level jobs attained by South Sudanese are often facilitated by local elites, emphasizing the need to scrutinize their status beyond mere work permits. Forming a committee to investigate corruption in job allocation is crucial.

Twelve years have passed without significant changes, and corruption remains rampant, favouring foreigners over nationals in job allocations. This has led to an influx of foreign traders, sex workers, and the introduction of unfamiliar systems like the boda-boda and chapati makers, cluttering clean roads. The youth must recognize the urgency of addressing this issue and unite in advocating for their rights through protests and collaboration with labour unions.

South Sudanese citizens must not be silent observers; they hold the power to elect their leaders and shape the future of their country. It is time to take to the streets and demand accountability from the government for the sake of their rights and the nation’s well-being.

Lawmakers and civil society must be proactive–

Civil society activists and human rights groups play a crucial watchdog role, advocating for the rights of citizens at both national and international levels. In South Sudan, however, elected lawmakers are under scrutiny for deviating from their roles. Instead of prioritizing constituents’ needs, they engage in gossip, flaunt wealth on social media, and misuse funds meant for constituencies.

These lawmakers, often relying on presidential decrees rather than voter mandates, have earned the moniker “presidential members of parliament.” Since the 2010 general elections, many have clung to power without re-election, raising concerns about the legitimacy of their representation.

It is essential for South Sudanese youth to be aware of their parliamentary representatives and hold them accountable. While some lawmakers genuinely address constituents’ concerns, others face consequences, such as dismissal, for advocating strongly on behalf of their people.

To address the systemic issues, principles of warring parties should allow communities to review the performance of their representatives. A call for new submissions and replacements may be necessary to ensure genuine representation.

Comparatively, in East Africa, members of parliament actively champion the interests of their constituents, advocating for job creation, salary increments for civil servants, and the overall improvement of public services. South Sudan, however, lags behind in protecting its citizens’ jobs, leaving many questioning the government’s commitment to those who sacrificed during the liberation struggle.

Despite gaining independence, South Sudanese still face marginalization, particularly in job transitions. The pressing question remains: when will the president sign a permanent jobs ceasefire agreement with neighbouring countries to prioritize the employment of South Sudanese citizens?

–Reassess foreign investments with a focus on transparent policies–

The influx of cheap and counterfeit foreign investments in South Sudan raises concerns about the government’s adherence to constitutional powers and its impact on job categorization. The prevalence of foreign labourers, especially in basic operational roles, questions the fairness of job distribution.

Regrettably, the unintentional or intentional favouring of certain countries in job allocation has become apparent. Chinese and Japanese nationals dominate the oil production sector, Ugandans control roadside businesses, including the sale of chapati, imported bananas, chickens, and goats. Kenyans hold prominent positions in national, international organizations, and the UN, while Ethiopians are rewarded with land leasing and engage in various businesses. Somalis are involved in the petroleum and mixing goods sector, and Sudanese excel in food and restaurant businesses.

Despite the variety of businesses conducted by foreign investors, the South Sudanese government struggles to benefit through tax collection. Many foreign investors operate as hawkers, peddling fake and unverified products without contributing adequately to the country’s revenue.

Compounding the issue is the absence of a national statistical bureau to scrutinize imported products. The government lacks a systematic approach to verify, examine, test, and review foreign goods, leading to a free market controlled by uninformed government workers.

This situation calls for a re-evaluation of policies to ensure transparency in foreign investments, protect citizens from substandard products, and optimize the economic benefits for South Sudan.

–Mobilize youth to advocate for fair job opportunities–

It is crucial for South Sudanese citizens, particularly the youth, to unite in protesting the unfair allocation of local jobs to foreign workers. Government officials, foreign investors, and country directors in UN and international organizations should be held accountable by public service, labour, and human resources ministries for neglecting the rights of South Sudanese citizens.

International standards dictate that foreign investors or traders should employ only 20-25% of their workforce, with the majority, 75-80%, reserved for citizens and host inhabitants. The South Sudanese government needs to explain the deviation from this policy, which seemingly favours foreign workers without adhering to constitutional requirements.

The Labor Act of 2017, Act No. 64, clearly stipulates that labour institutions must prioritize jobs for both citizens and international workers in accordance with legal justifications. Unfortunately, this act has been disregarded, violating various penalty codes. Independent commissions should enforce these regulations to ensure that job markets are handled fairly by all employing entities, including companies and private individuals hiring for basic daily tasks.

–Initiate comprehensive review of operating entities–

The concerned ministries are set to commence a thorough evaluation that includes registration, the cessation of illegal work permits, the introduction of a workers’ index assessment, and a review of the scale, terms, and conditions of international jobs for foreign workers. This proactive step aims to curb illegal activities and provide an avenue for entities to be held accountable through a government-formed committee.

To the youth: Now is the time to assert your rights. Government actions have compromised your national interests, with political and institutional leaders facilitating the outsourcing of jobs to foreigners. Engage in demonstrations, public uprisings, and consider laying down your work tools to reclaim what is rightfully yours. South Sudanese people find themselves relegated to poverty lines, effectively becoming strangers in their own land.

Within the East African Community, where can South Sudanese citizens open profitable companies, secure government positions, or conduct street vending with ease? Happiness seems elusive as studies indicate a stark reality—South Sudanese citizens are essentially becoming economic slaves in their homeland.

It is imperative for the government to proactively generate jobs for its legal citizens using oil revenues and local taxes. The prevailing situation, where foreign workers are employed extensively, even within the highest echelons of power, raises questions about the government’s commitment to protecting jobs for South Sudanese citizens.

South Sudan is increasingly viewed as an open market for East African communities due to governance failures. It is high time for institutions to crack down on illegal roadside businesses and companies that extract resources without contributing to job creation or proper tax revenue, ultimately strengthening South Sudan’s economy.

–Address illegal activities across the country–

The ministries of interior, national security, criminal investigation, police, and Juba city council management need to confront the issue of illegal roadside hawkers from foreign countries in South Sudan. Allowing foreign hawkers, chapati makers, water sellers, and the unchecked entry of goods like unripe bananas through our borders negatively impacts our economy. The government should reevaluate public service and human resources policies in South Sudan to safeguard our economic interests.

Despite the constant advertising, approval, and kick-off of recruitment processes, there is a notable lack of fairness, accountability, and transparency in job placements. Responsible directors from ministries must initiate follow-up mechanisms to ensure these processes adhere to established standards. The Relief Rehabilitation Commission, in particular, must address weaknesses in safeguarding citizens’ privileges.

I urge citizens to take constitutional actions against injustice, utilizing the provisions in public service and labour acts. Protests, work stoppages, and calls to close down foreign companies engaged in illegal resource extraction are within citizens’ rights. Regional and international treaties related to job opportunities and equality within the East African Community must be revisited to prevent South Sudanese citizens from falling victim to weak systems.

It is crucial for young South Sudanese to reject the acceptance of suffering in broad daylight while unqualified non-citizens occupy the least desirable jobs. Citizens should rise to fight for their rights, protest on legal matters, and question the government and its governance system. As we approach 2024, it’s time to assert our rights to work and hold the government accountable, recognizing that reciprocity is not guaranteed in foreign countries.

David Lony Majak is a commentator on street children and a human rights activist. He can be reached via email:

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and the responsibility for the veracity of any claims made rests with the author, not Radio Tamazuj.