GOSS Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Gabriel Changson, told reporters on Friday 8th August, 2008 in Juba that the Governments of National Unity (GoNU) and Southern Sudan (GoSS) have agreed to give GOSS Liaison Offices abroad the same diplomatic status as Embassies. He said this agreement will improve the working relations between Sudan's Embassies and GOSS Liaison Missions around the world.
He said the change in status will permit GOSS Liaison Offices the authority to issue visas to foreigners traveling to Southern Sudan. The GOSS missions will also have authority to promote social, economic and cultural ties between Southern Sudan and other countries. Further, the Minister said GOSS Liaison Officials will be granted diplomatic immunity and their cars will bear diplomatic registration plate numbers as part of the deal.
Without a doubt, this is a wishful thinking from H.E. Gabriel Changson. It shows how he is ignorant about the nature of Embassies and the international status of diplomats. It shows also how he is less informed - as the Information and Broadcasting Minister - about the residual powers and linkages mentioned in the CPA and the Sudan Interim Constitution as well as Southern Sudan Interim Constitution. Also Mr. Changson should have read and understood articles about Diplomatic and Consular relations stipulated in Vienna Conventions of 1961, 1963 and 1969 before he rush to make those who understand International Relations laugh at his politics of ignorance about how countries relate with each other legally.
I wonder who went from GoNU to fool the GoSS Information Minister with a ‘wishful thinking agreement; and a ‘public relation exercise' about according GoSS Liaison Offices diplomatic status. The GoSS should have asked those who went to hoodwink them the following questions:
Firstly: why continue to call them GoSS Liaison Offices if they have to be given the same status as Embassies? (It would have looked better if these missions were renamed ‘Embassies of Southern Sudan', so that Vienna Conventions allow them to have diplomatic or consular status like the Embassies or Consulates of independent countries).
Secondly: which country will accept to give GoSS Liaison Offices (and their officials) diplomatic status when South Sudan is not yet an independent State with its own Foreign Ministry?
Thirdly: why are GoSS Liaison Missions not in good working relations with Sudan Embassies around the World (as the Minister said it) if their purpose of being posted abroad is the same within the partnership context of the CPA, i.e., creating good relations with foreigners to bring benefits to Sudan, be it South or North?
Let the GoSS be realistic about the limits of its mandate within the context of the CPA and interim constitutions. What the Minister and his likes should know is that the GoSS Liaison Offices abroad will never get diplomatic status and immunities unless they are made part of the Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Without this connection, there will not be any international legal basis to accord GoSS Liaison Offices diplomatic immunities and privileges. The Officials who hold these offices will never be issued diplomatic passports unless they become employed as diplomats of the Sudan in accordance with the dictates of diplomatic system of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Their cars will never be allowed to bear diplomatic number plates (CD or MDC) unless they are purchased in the name of Sudan Embassies in the countries of representations.
Let me not be hesitant to state it clearly that the GoSS Liaison Missions abroad will continue to issue ‘illegal Entry Permits' and SPLM IDs of Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) to their foreign friends who wish to come to Southern Sudan without knowledge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They will never give out Sudan Entry Visas because they will not have it! Visas can only be issued by Embassies or Consulates under the mandate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior (in the section of Immigration and Passports). Let me also be clear that the GoSS Regional Cooperation Ministry will not have any legal basis to issue visas because it is not and will not be a parallel Foreign Ministry in the South. The work of this Ministry is similar to that of the Ministry of International Cooperation in the GoNU, which cooperate with other countries only through the linkage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Interim Constitution of the Sudan is not going to allow two Ministries doing the same work!
Even after 2011, I have no doubt that GoSS Regional Cooperation will only be renamed to become Ministry of International Cooperation of the African Republic of South Sudan. ‘Regional Cooperation' will only be a Department within it. It is obvious that South Sudan will establish a new Ministry called South Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be run by trained and experienced South Sudan diplomats; and not by wishful thinkers of South Sudan Liaison Missions. It is this Foreign Ministry which will issue visas and send South Sudan diplomats and Ambassadors abroad with diplomatic immunities and privileges. H.E. Gabriel Changson should get this information into his head very well before he comes to the public to embarrass himself!
James Okuk is a concerned Southerner and a PhD student in University of Nairobi.
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