So far, so good! We have now been in the dry season for more than two months and, notwithstanding rumours of both sides re-arming heavily during the last wet season, South Sudan has not erupted into the violent conflict some were predicting. It could still happen but already the people are starting to look towards the new wet season with a growing optimism. The rival factions in the ruling SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) have met and signed another agreement to unify the party and subsequently, we hope, the country. Yes, there has been some isolated fighting and senseless killing, usually over cattle. One of the nearby schools in Juba is now housing over 3000 displaced persons following an inter-tribal clash resulting in at least eleven deaths, when one tribe marched their cattle onto the land which another tribe was cultivating to produce food.
It is not yet peace but neither is it a re-ignition of the dreadful fighting and killing that scorched parts of South Sudan last year. I am reminded of a sentence I first heard a Professor use: ‘And so, we tiptoe into the future on the brittle egg shells of the past’. Both sides are treading more carefully and, while not exactly embracing a potentially prosperous future, there is some small progress. There is a great need for healing and reconciliation but I think it is beginning. The major road block, as the country tip toes forward, is that none of the key players are willing to cede power and privilege. Sometimes, when the cavalcades of the ‘big men’ force the ordinary citizen off the roads while they hurtle past, some might feel like throwing eggs; but it would be a foolish thing to do with so many guns carried quite openly. Eleven people were killed in one State yesterday when a convoy was ambushed on the road. A Government Spokesperson said it was an act of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) but it is hard to determine what is true information or simply more misinformation or disinformation. A seventeen-year old boy told me recently that he has never been anywhere outside of Juba. He has a vague idea that life is different elsewhere but what he knows is what is normal to him. Cultural sensitivity is important but some things do need to change. So many guns should never be seen as normal.
Last week, apples and oranges were two for SSP5. This week they were SSP4 each. Large mangos were SSP5 last week but SSP4 (about 66cents) this week. Pineapples and cabbages were both sold for the unit price of SSP12, but one grapefruit was SSP14. Supply and demand. I can buy a frozen chicken from Brazil for SSP33. In one shop, a bottle of Amarula was priced at SSP130; in another SSP90. One learns where to look for bargains. A 700ml bottle of water costs less than SSP1 – about 15 cents. If I smoked, I could buy cigarettes for less than 50 cents per packet. Some prices are greatly manipulated in other parts of the world. A tray of 30 eggs in Juba costs about SSP20. There is no shortage of egg shells! Life goes on normally enough for us but it is a different story in the IDP camps. A way to tiptoe forward simply must be found.
– Br Bill