Thursday, 19 July 2012

Besuch südsudanesischer Diplomaten im BICC

On 10 July 2012, the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) hosted a delegation of newly appointed diplomats from South Sudan. The visit took place in the framework of a training course organized by the German Foreign Office in Berlin.

The twelve diplomats – which will assume different posts in South Sudanese missions abroad or at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Juba were warmly welcomed by BICC director Peter Croll and South Sudan coordinator Wolf-Christian Paes. The guests used the opportunity to learn more about the work of the center.

Marius Kahl – who has been working as the technical advisor for the Bureau of Community Security and Arms Control – in Juba since 2011 presented the project to improve arms and ammunition management within the South Sudanese security forces. The project aims to interrupt the vicious cycle of civilian disarmament and subsequent leakage of weapons back into unauthorized hands through improved physical storage conditions. His presentation was followed by a lively discussion, which included questions about the role of Western nations – including Germany – in exporting weapons to conflict zones. 

In the second presentation Christine Andrä – who works with the center’s natural resources team – presented some findings from a research project on the impact of oil investment by the Chinese-Malaysian oil company Petrodar in Upper Nile State. On one hand, the high dependence of South Sudan on oil revenues created some of the typical features of a “resource curse” leading to the neglect of the development of agriculture and trade. On the other hand, it raised hopes for employment opportunities, which could not be fulfilled, creating tensions with the local community.

During the third presentation Elke Grawert – the center’s research coordinator and a long-term expert on South Sudan - pointed out the historical connections of the new country with the region in terms of mutual hosting of armed groups, including small arms trade, and refugee movements. These aspects together with the unsolved issues of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) - have aggravated the livelihood situation in South Sudan. Grawert challenged the “open door” policy of the government in Juba during the CPA period, which had attracted business men and workers from across the region, but created only limited wealth, skills transfer and employment opportunities for South Sudanese citizens. She suggested to use the current crisis for a “turn around” based on a new comprehensive peace agreement with Sudan and a different economic and development policy.

Unfortunately, the time was too short to have an intensive discussion about the last two presentations as the South Sudanese delegation had to catch a train to Berlin, but there was broad agreement to continue the dialogue in the future.