On April 26, 2017 Dominica News Online (DNO) published a story with the Headline “Dr. Thomson Fontaine Gets Top Economic Job in South Sudan”, in which it reported that “Dr. Thomson Fontaine has been appointed Senior Economic and International Policy Adviser to the Government of South Sudan”. It went on to state that the former IMF employee would be responsible for “offering policy advice to the transitional government, assisting in the organization of RESOURCES of the state, and importantly, establishing an ECONOMIC and FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT POLICY for the country.”

In that DNO story Dr. Fontaine was quoted as saying “I will be serving as the primary liaison of the TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL UNITY basically providing them with economic policy advice in that area and CONTRIBUTE TO DIFFERENT WORKING PAPERS AND POLICY DISCUSSIONS on the future of South Sudan”.

Being conscious of Dr. Fontaine’s propensity for hyperbole and for manipulating information to suit his political objectives, I was not prepared to take the economist- turned -politician’s word on face value; and I proceeded to scour the internet in an effort to satisfy myself that the former Dominica Academy of Arts and Sciences (DAAS) Treasurer could have been up to some “old trick” of deception.

Several hours spent at the computer visiting scores of websites (including those of official South Sudan government as well as international agencies), provided no confirmation of Dr. Fontaine’s assertion that he was off to South Sudan to serve as an Advisor to the Government of South Sudan. The only Sudanese news outlet which made reference to the “appointment” of the former IMF economist was the Sudan Tribune, which in a story dated April 27, 2017 references the DNO story of the previous day, but with a curious addition that “Thomson Fontaine hails from the Dominican Republic”!

Truth has the habit of revealing itself in mysterious ways. A story appearing in DNO on, Saturday, April 28, 2018 – exactly one year after it reported on Dr. Fontaine’s “appointment”- and curiously, exactly one day before the United Workers Party Delegates Conference in Fontaine’s home village, reports as follows: “Dominican economist and JMEC colleagues brief South Sudan legislators”. That must have been a DNO “BREAKING NEWS” story, since generally, “ordinary” news (whatever that is) is not posted on a weekend!

For me, it was indeed breaking news. It broke the case of deception, which for a whole year was shrouded in strong suspicion. Dr. Fontaine was in fact never appointed as Senior Economic Adviser to the Government of South Sudan! During the past year he served as a senior economic advisor on the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) in South Sudan!

A visit to the JMEC’s website (www.jmecsouthsudan.org) reveals that that Commission was established under Chapter VII of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS), and is responsible for “the monitoring and overseeing of the implementation of the peace agreement, the mandate and tasks of the Transitional Government of National Unity including the adherence of the parties to the agreed timelines and implementation schedules”, among other functions. Nowhere in the mandate and terms of reference of the JMEC is there mention of any economic advisory function. And Dr. Fontaine’s remarks at the JMEC  briefing referred to in Saturday’s DNO story were no different from what he is used to repeating in Dominica .. job creation; growing the economy; youth empowerment, and so on. In the context of the South Sudan realities, any economist “worth his salt” would have highlighted the toll which “tribal politics” continues to inflict on that country’s economy.

Examination of the structure of the JMEC reveals that Dr. Fontaine serves on one of its several Working Committees (RESOURCE, ECONOMIC and FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Committee) which was established in April 2017!  Here, I make reference to the areas highlighted in the first and second paragraphs of this article, to show how Dr. Fontaine was able to cleverly, and deceptively use key words in his terms of engagement.

With DNO’s Saturday “Breaking News” Dr. Fontaine’s self-gratifying publicity on the eve of the UWP’s Delegates Conference may very well prove counterproductive for himself and his Party! Yet another rising star of Team Dominica could have lost its lustre!

 

Rupert Sorhaindo