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It is not entirely about Capacity Gaps; It is an issue of Professional Complacency:

Ms. Kuyang Harriet Logo Mulukwat

This article is borne of a conversation with colleague who has been in South Sudan for nearly a decade and has engaged in a series of capacity development initiatives for the rule of law institutions. My colleague was in the process of reviewing some documents submitted as part of an application for a grant. Some of the applications which were expected to have been flawless were not well framed. As usual, we floated the question – what is the real problem with South Sudanese professionals? Is it that their capacities and education is weak? We agreed on one thing – that it is no longer an issue of capacities, it is rather a problem of complacency, a situation of self- satisfaction, contentment and gratification. Every individual must be motivated to reach the apex of their career and as it is well known, to reach to the horizons of one’s career, hard work must be persistent.

Before becoming a consultant, I worked for UNDP in Sudan/South Sudan and East Timor for 6 years. When I returned from my studies in the USA, I visited UNDP and I found the same old faces holding the same old jobs. While the question “you are still here?” had become a greeting, it also indicated that some people had not moved at all. Sometimes I would ask “Are you still holding the same position?” it was always that the person I was holding the conversation with, had in fact remained in the same designation for all the years. I know of colleagues with great college degrees and all, ad after a decade in the workforce, they have at best remained where they were. One time I met a colleague, who had never thought of furthering his studies. I was shocked that he was shocked that I had pursued my post graduate degree in law and returned back home, and he was where he was at, doing the same old job and holding the same qualifications. Complacency affects the quality of work and in the longer term affects professional growth because the self-satisfaction felt by the individual leads to professional stagnation.

With complacency comes laziness and professional regression. It can also lead to poor quality of work and lack of professional growth. Sometimes I see colleagues idling about, taking coffee for nearly an hour and will go for their lunch for over two hours. I am always wondering if some of these colleagues are at all worried about the kind of reputation they are creating for themselves. In the government offices, the situation is even worse – for nearly the whole day, people are out for tea and chit chatting, joking and laughing. Goverment officers sit before tables that have no paper work and are as clean as a clean slate. Professional complacency has its consequences. As the feeling of self-satisfaction takes over, an individual ceases to aim higher and over a long period of time, cannot catch up with their own colleagues who will be doing much better! But above all complacency has let so many international staff to label South Sudanese as lazy and lacking capacities.

The issue of capacity gap exists, but not to the levels it is being alleged to exist. On the contrary, there are now South Sudanese who are experts in an array of fields. For one to reach the pinnacle of success, one must always regard themselves as persons who are undertaking a journey of professional growth, which usually does not have an end or age limit.

South Sudan is one of the countries with a big number of “International experts” who at best ride on the fact that the nationals have no capacities. This was even said one time in my face, on a radio talk show. At that time listened to the remarks about lack of capacities in South Sudan and when the good lady was done, I told her that the assertion that South Sudanese have no capacities was very wrong. On the contrary, I had expected her to at least say, South Sudanese are complacent or at best lazy. But the lack of capacity argument does not hold water. One of the panelists said that for an international expert to say that South Sudanese lack capacities is to admit that for the past decade, the capacity development initiatives implemented by international staff have failed. He further told the international expert, that “Now that you have failed to build capacities, perhaps it is time for you to leave?” That said, all of us can beat complacency and rid ourselves of the weak capacities tag and begin to progressively advance our careers to the next levels.

 

The Writer is a South Sudanese Lawyer and a Senior Consultant on Democratic Governance and the Rule of Law and teaches on a part time basis at the College of Law of the University of Juba. She can be reached on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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