Eastern Africa Time UTC/GMT +2 hours
Capital City Juba
Currency South Sudanese pound
National Day 9 July
South Sudan’s new Ambassador Agnes Adlino Orifa Oswaha declares that one of her top priorities while posted to the UK is “to educate the world about what’s happening in my country. This July marks South Sudan’s tenth anniversary of independence. The world’s youngest state is 10 years old, which is quite something to reflect on!”
Ambassador Oswaha arrived in the capital in March at the height of lockdown. “I had to come alone, so my family will join me later.” She admits it hasn’t been easy. “Seeing so few people in empty streets was quite strange. In the Embassy, it was just me and a few of my staff. But now people are feeling more optimistic.” Her President appointing her Ambassador to the Court of St James’s was the most memorable moment of her career, along with “the experience of meeting The Queen, and presenting her with my President’s message. It was the greatest feeling, and so humbling too.”
Brought up in a modest, hardworking family, Ambassador Oswaha’s parents and extended family put a lot of effort and resources into educating their children. (So much so, that she has two female cousins who also work at the MFA.) Ambassador Oswaha graduated with a degree in Law, Society and Justice with a double major in Political Science, which enabled her to work as a legal advocate at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, US. Additionally, she holds MSW specialising in Justice and Policy Practice.
Once the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005, she later joined the Government of Southern Sudan and lobbied for a referendum for independence as staff of the South Sudan mission in Washington, which dealt with the country’s affairs in the US and UN, eventually becoming Acting Permanent Representative and Chargé d’Affaires at the South Sudan Mission to the UN in New York.
In 2012, Ambassador Oswaha was honoured to be appointed among the first Ambassadors of South Sudan, and then transferred to the headquarters in Juba, where she lived and worked until her arrival in London. Heading various different departments in the ministry, a role as Director at the Office of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (2012-17) meant she was technical advisor to the deputy minister. “I handled special files with regards to our membership of The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the East African Community and our Borders Committee, allowing me to gather a well-rounded vision of the ministry’s work.”
The Ambassador believes her years as Director of International Organisations at the MFA will assist her well as Ambassador in the UK. “This role gave me an opportunity to observe South Sudan’s bilateral relationship with the UK, as well as the UK’s involvement in the multilateral arena. I was interested to learn of the UK’s involvement in South Sudan’s humanitarian issues, also the UK had a contingent deployed to the UN’s mission in South Sudan.” She continues: “I’m delighted that my work back in the capital, plus the opportunities working in these major diplomatic centres have brought me here to London, the centre of world diplomacy!”
Ambassador Oswaha highlights the special historical relationship between the UK and South Sudan. “The UK has supported South Sudan throughout the years, even before independence. I look forward to further strengthening bilateral relations, and although the UK has left the EU, it is still a member of many regional and multilateral bodies, which focus on South Sudan’s issues.” For example, the UK is a member of Troika (UK, US and Norway) and the UNSC, focusing on the implementation of peace in South Sudan. “We look forward to continuing to engage the UK in South Sudan’s ongoing peace process.”
She notes that as the youngest country in the world South Sudan is still at “the beginning stages of addressing climate change.” Top of this agenda is to secure funding to enable South Sudan to be able to implement its climate mitigation programmes, which include plans to plant 100 million trees within the next 10 years. “Also, our population heavily depends on charcoal for energy, so we have to adapt to alternative sources of energy, while embarking on smart agriculture and better use of the land.”
Nevertheless, Ambassador Oswaha acknowledges that South Sudan is not without some diplomatic challenges. “My country has not been given a chance to speak for itself – it’s been overwhelmed by international narratives. For instance, right now the implementation of the revitalised peace agreement is ongoing. It is a bit slow, but it is happening. However, the international community wishes it could happen faster, not taking into context the difficulties on the ground.” Taking control of the narrative will be a big part of her role in the UK. “The world needs to listen to South Sudan and its open-hearted people to give it a chance!”