By Raynard Jackson
Last month I had the chance to talk with several members of the South Sudanese delegation who attended the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City.
Those who follow my writings know that I have been very critical of the lack of leadership being demonstrated by many African leaders. Most Africans want three simple things: healthcare, education, and a job. Leaders that provide these to their countrymen will be voted into office many times over.
The newest nation on earth is the Republic of South Sudan (RSS). They were birthed into existence in July of 2011 with the strong support of former U.S. president, George W. Bush. They were greeted with global fanfare and goodwill.
The RSS, like anything new, has had its ups and downs, including a current civil war. The RSS’s president, Salva KiirMayardit, has come under criticism from many in the U.S. fornot being a forceful enough leader. I too, have been critical ofMayardit’s government at different times.
My biggest criticism has been the lack of sufficient engagement from the RSS with the political leaders in the U.S., the U.S. media, and the American people.
Mayardit named a new cabinet last summer and I think it will pay real dividends to his government.
The RSS has in turn accused the U.S. of unfair treatment of them via some of our policy decisions. But, if the RSS is not engaging with the U.S. on various levels, how are we to know the real truth of what is going on in their country?
I had a long conversation with Barnaba Marial Benjamin,Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. He is a very impressive person and has thorough knowledge of how we in the West operate. He agreed with my assessment of the need for the RSS to do a better job in engaging with the U.S.; this includes members of Congress, the media, and various non-government organizations (NGOs).
He has a clear understanding of the need to explain to the American people the value of a bilateral relationship with the RSS. Everyone knows about the oil in the RSS, but they also are helpful allies with the U.S. in the war on terrorism.
Another memorable conversation I had was with Deng Yai, Minister of Environment. Like Minister Benjamin, he understands the need for his ministry to engage with the American people. According to the minister, there are many business opportunities for Americans in the area of waste management, power generation, and renewable energy.
If ministers Benjamin and Yai are representative of Mayardit’snew cabinet, then there may be reason for optimism. If they follow through on their commitment to better, sustained engagement with the American people; they will find a strong supporter of the RSS.
Many Americans went to jail in the U.S. because of their support for the RSS. The RSS has many friends in the U.S.; they simply need to be properly engaged so that the U.S. policy towards the RSS remains positive.
President Mayardit is a career soldier and has had the presidency thrust upon him with the untimely death of the honorable JohnGarang. Mayardit has made his share of missteps; but his new cabinet indicates that he is growing into the office of president.
I am more optimistic now about the future of the RSS than I have been in a couple of years. If the country increases their engagement with the U.S., the RSS’s future can be very bright.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @raynard1223. – See more at: http://www.blackpressusa.com/2014/10/democrats-defy-logic/#sthash.3DfszVDb.M1v3hYh4.dpuf