July 18, 2012 (TSR) – Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair is set to become to an advisor to the South Sudan government as part of an agreement between his charity, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) and the new country’s leadership.
The deal, according to The Telegraph, was reached last month between AGI and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, following a four-day visit to the country at the end of May by David Miliband MP, British former foreign secretary. At the seminar, which was attended by South Sudan’s vice-president and ministers, reportedly the Chinese involvement in the country’s oil industry was also discussed.
South Sudan thus becomes the fifth African nation, including Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Liberia and Guinea, where AGI now has offices in presidential departments.
It, however, remains unclear in what capacity Blair will be involved in South Sudan, while AGI’s South Sudan operation will reportedly be headed by Miliband.
“The objective of our work is to strengthen the capacity of the new institutions at the center of the government so they are better able to lead the country’s development. We hope that our work can help to deliver improvements to the people of South Sudan,” reads a statement on the AGI website.
No official statement has, however, been issued by the South Sudan government or officials from the British embassy in Juba, the South Sudan capital, regarding the ex-premier’s involvement.
The addition of South Sudan to Blair’s portfolio, The Telegraph argued, gives him influence over the world’s newest nation state, which was officially recognized a year ago following years of civil war in the region.
Blair’s appointment comes at a time when South Sudan tries to grapple with the aftermath of its oil shut down following a dispute with Sudan. Oil revenues, until then, accounted for about 98 percent of the government budget.
Also, the new nation has stepped up its fight against corruption, with the President recently issuing letters to 75 former and current officials, asking them to account for nearly $4bn allegedly siphoned from the national treasury. The President has since received lots of support from lawmakers, the civil society and the public for his anti-corruption crusade.
Last year, Blair visited Juba and held talks with South Sudan’s foreign affairs minister, Nhial Deng Nhial before meeting President Kiir.
During the visit, the former British prime minister pledged his country’s commitment towards addressing South Sudan’s post-independence challenges, and assured the latter of full international community support.
Born in May 1953, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, a member of the country’s Labour party served as the UK’s Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007.
During his tenure, however, he was widely criticized for his foreign policy, especially his support of US President George W. Bush’s war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.