Published: June 19th 2008June 12th 2008
With my sis at Logali House...
...what can I say, I'm her idol...
I have never been through ‘immigration’ this fast anywhere in the world. There is no line, just a cloud of travelers trying to reach the single immigration officer, and to obtain the needed passport seal. In the same room, luggage is deposited and picked up. If it took me five minutes to get out, was because I had to tie my shoes…Somehow, South Sudan’s customs fitted the apparent contradiction of: ‘messy, but scarily efficient’.
The first thing that stroke me when landing in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, was seeing twelve UN aircraft for each commercial one at the airport. I have never seen such a concentration of UN and NGO compounds in a single place. And there is a story behind this.
Until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, the war between the North and the South of Sudan had been almost continuous, starting right after Sudan’s independence in 1956, and making it the longest civil war in the world. A certainly not desirable record. The United Nations did not have an active participation in South Sudan until 1988, when Operation Lifeline Sudan was launched. Before that, UN help was limited to humanitarian assistance to people able
Wonderful Chinese Restaurant
no, seriously, that was the name of the restaurant
to escape Sudan.
Operation Lifeline Sudan established its base of operations in Lokichoggio, Kenya, nowadays a ghost town of empty warehouses and an airstrip: only a few years ago, all the UN and international NGOs coordinating assistance for South Sudan moved to Juba, the old capital of the South. And let me tell you, every international NGO I have heard and I have not heard of, is here. Not kidding.
Among those NGOs are US’s CHF and UK’s Malaria Consortium, where old Dan and old Diana work.
With so many NGOs and UN agencies, it was not surprising to find a quite large, although with a high turnover rate, expat community. Most expats do their service here only for a few months (sometimes weeks) and then go back home. A year in Juba makes you instantly a veteran.
And the truth is…it is not easy to live here. Things have improved considerably in the past three years. However, there are only two good roads in the whole Juba: Hospital road and Juba Town road, and they intersect at a point where the only traffic lights in the city stand, semi-destroyed, and with plants growing around them…
With old Dan and crazy Mike at the glorious Logali House,..
where you can watch the Eurocup, have decent beer, a meal, and see the expat community misbehaving...
there is no regular electricity, and expats houses use generators to have light only between 7pm to 1am, time at which a curfew goes in effect until 5am. Only weeks before my arrival, unpaid soldiers, apparently from the Sudanese People Liberation Army, realizing that the expats are the ones with money in this town (South Sudan is a cash-only economy), initiated a series of raids entering NGO offices and expats houses, stealing what they could. There were two separate attempts to break in to my sister’s house, both repelled by the security guards with…spears.
A few people were arrested after this. The government took rapid action, partly because they are aware that they cannot afford to lose the NGO community settled here. For bad or for worse, Juba’s economy is driven by the expats. Rumor says that the perpetrators were actually paid by Northern Sudanese forces, in an attempt to scare off NGOs from Juba. But the problem seems more complicated than this: in recent weeks, another series of attacks, this time on local businesses, did not trigger such a rapid response from the GOSS government.
Listening the stories of the different expats coming from such dissimilar places
like Kenya, Zambia, the US or Peru, did nothing else but to reaffirm my sense of admiration for these people. Something I will certainly keep in main beyond my stay here, in the Jubalicious.
There are more photos below