OpEd, Social Challenge

Unregulated Foreign Movement and Engagement: Threats to South Sudan’s National Security and Sovereignty

By Bek Dhuorjang Chol


The situation in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, is becoming increasingly complex due to the influx of foreign nationals engaging in various economic activities.

This presence is not limited to commercial ventures but extends into government offices and residential areas, raising significant concerns regarding national security and the well-being of South Sudanese citizens. From unregulated pharmaceutical sales to establishing foreign religious institutions, the presence of foreigners in various aspects of South Sudanese life raises profound concerns about national security, public health, privacy, and cultural integrity.

One notable issue is the unregulated sale of pharmaceutical products by Indian nationals and other vendors, which poses a risk to public health due to the potential circulation of unapproved or counterfeit medicines. Some nationals are involved after being hired. The lack of strict controls by the Ministry of Health and the South Sudan Food and Drug Authority has raised alarms about the quality and safety of these medications. Recently some food imported from the neighbouring countries were written sale to South Sudan without expiry date and not allowed to be sold within the country where it was produced (Uganda). This situation not only endangers public health but also undermines trust in the healthcare system, hence jeopardizing the well-being of South Sudanese citizens.

Similarly, another concern is Egyptian vendors in residential and sometimes in public offices engaging in the door-to-door sale of cooking utensils on instalment plans. This practice raises concerns about privacy and the potential for unauthorized data collection, as there are reports of these individuals taking pictures and obtaining personal information from South Sudanese women and girls. Where is the South Sudanese consumer protection unit on the potential impact of these activities on our people? Entering private homes under the guise of business transactions is a great concern for privacy and possible exploitation.

Establishing religious institutions by foreign nationals, particularly those claiming prophetic authority, introduces another layer of complexity. This phenomenon can influence local cultural and religious practices, potentially leading to social divisions and undermining community cohesion. The commercial activities of Ugandan nationals or citizens from East African countries, including the sale of clothing and food, along with Somalians and Ethiopians selling perfumes, sandals, and water supply, respectively, reflect a diverse economic engagement by foreign nationals in Juba as vendors. Such activities can not contribute to the local economy, and improvement of market saturation, competition with local businesses, and potential cultural and social impacts. However, the involvement of foreign nationals in essential services, without adequate regulation, poses risks to public safety and national security.

Furthermore, the accessibility of ministries complex to nationals and non-nationals is an unprecedented practice that could compromise sensitive information. Though there are some people assigned as receptionists or security guards yet, they give access to these individuals under the pretext of customers selling items to workers. There is no country where open access to public offices without explicit scrutiny is ever granted to foreigners or even its nationals. This is unusual and deviates from the norm observed in sovereign nations, potentially compromising the integrity and national security of governmental operations.

The presence of foreigners, especially in remote villages, whether working or selling items to locals, can pose various risks without proper government regulation or oversight. These risks may include economic exploitation, cultural erosion, and even national security threats if individuals with malicious intentions can operate unchecked. Without proper regulation, foreign entities may exploit resources, engage in illegal activities, or undermine local businesses, ultimately harming the economy and citizens’ well-being.

The unregulated movement and involvement of foreigners raise significant national security concerns. Like many other nations, South Sudan must safeguard its borders and internal affairs against potential threats. Foreign individuals operating without oversight could engage in espionage, illicit arms trade, or other activities detrimental to the country’s stability and security. This includes the risks mentioned earlier and the possibility of destabilizing local communities or inciting conflicts. Foreign actors may exploit existing tensions or manipulate local dynamics for their interests, undermining the stability and sovereignty of South Sudan. This lack of regulation may also contribute to the proliferation of organised crime networks or extremist elements, further exacerbating security challenges.

Our government must implement comprehensive policies that regulate these activities within its borders and premises to address these wonders. This could include:

  1. The government must proactively regulate the movements and activities of nationals and foreigners. This involves strengthening border control mechanisms, implementing stricter visa and residency policies, and enhancing surveillance capabilities to monitor suspicious activities. The government can mitigate security risks and safeguard national interests by exerting greater control over its territory and borders.
  2. Another key aspect is regulating public office access for nationals and foreigners. Allowing unrestricted participation in governance without proper vetting or oversight could compromise state institutions’ integrity. Therefore, establishing transparent and merit-based criteria for holding public office is essential to prevent external actors’ undue influence or manipulation.
  3. Strengthening regulatory frameworks to ensure the quality and safety of products sold within the country, particularly pharmaceuticals.
  4. Enhancing oversight and control of commercial activities conducted by foreigners, ensuring they comply with local laws and regulations and do not infringe on the rights and privacy of South Sudanese citizens.
  5. Promoting local entrepreneurship and businesses ensures that the South Sudanese economy benefits from sustainable development that prioritizes the needs and well-being of its citizens.

Such measures would not only protect the national security and economic interests of South Sudan but also promote an environment where foreign engagement is regulated, respectful, and mutually beneficial. A proactive and holistic approach from the government is needed to protect public health, preserve cultural integrity, and promote sustainable economic development.

My dear brother, you have provided valuable insights supporting my arguments regarding regulating and overseeing foreign engagement in South Sudan. However, a few points to respond to your observations from my article:

  1. Regarding door-to-door business practices: 
  1. There is a prevalent practice among Egyptians and other foreigners in South Sudan of conducting business through door-to-door accessibility rather than establishing formal shops in markets.
  1. This approach raises security concerns, as there have been reports of sexual exploitation of women and girls during these interactions.
  2. There is a lack of taxation on such transactions.

I emphasize the importance of creating a conducive business environment where foreign investors are encouraged to establish formal enterprises, thus contributing to the local economy through taxation and employment opportunities. By channelling business activities through established marketplaces, regulatory compliance can be ensured, and vulnerable populations can be protected from exploitation.

  1. Foreigners’ movement
  2. Foreigners, including those without valid documents, are observed traveling deep into rural areas of South Sudan, such as Jebel Koten, Jebel Boma, Hiyala, Kediba, Ere, Malualkon, and other remote area in the country.
  3. Freedom of movement is definitely a universal right, but there is a need for clarity on the objectives of foreigners’ movements and proper regulation by the authorities.

The presence of foreigners without valid documentation raises questions about their intentions and the necessity of stricter enforcement of immigration laws to prevent unauthorized activities that may pose risks to local communities.

  1. Government Offices and Market Access:
  2. Government offices are not suitable places for unregulated commercial activities, and they should not serve as marketplaces for local or foreign vendors.
  3. I challenge you as a South Sudanese citizen to go and engage in similar activities, such as selling groundnuts or honey in foreign countries’ government ministries, to understand the impracticality and illegality of such actions.

Therefore, enforcing regulations to restrict such practices ensures that government premises remain dedicated to their primary functions while protecting the interests of local businesses.

  1. Regulation of Businesses
  2. I call for organised and regulated business practices for nationals and foreigners operating in South Sudan.
  3. Foreign investment and entrepreneurship are welcome but must adhere to established regulations to ensure fairness, security, and economic stability.
  4. Support for Local Employment

Formalizing businesses through established shops in markets would promote security and regulation and create opportunities for local employment and revenue generation for the government through taxation.

In conclusion, these are my observations as a citizen calling for the importance of establishing clear regulations and enforcing them to ensure orderly and beneficial business practices for all stakeholders in South Sudan. By promoting organized commerce and supporting local entrepreneurship, the country can promote economic growth and stability while safeguarding the well-being of its citizens.


Comments are closed.