South Sudan has negotiated elections and the referendum, and achieved independence,
with remarkable clam and stability. The fears of outbreaks of violence and lawlessness have
been largely unfounded and the country has moved smoothly to becoming the world’s
newest nation. There has been some inflation in prices and some shortages, especially in
northern regions, but one can only say we have been well led to this point. Peace and
stability have been preserved.
One cannot fail to notice there is a ‘liberation’ among the women in the style of western
clothing they are now choosing to wear. People seem to be more relaxed and confident that
they are indeed able to choose their own destiny rather than suffer the imposition from
others; but there are some emerging concerns. The mood of optimism and confidence
continues but slowly the awareness is dawning that independence does not bring instant
rewards for the general population.
There has been no town power in Malakal since August 25th. The people of that city formerly
received the benefits of a power supply every night. I was there for the independence
celebrations on July 9th and we enjoyed power all that day. Before independence, a power
grid operating during daylight hours in Wau. That has now ceased. Wau and Malakal, after
Juba, are the two largest towns in South Sudan.
In Juba, however, twenty-four hours of power had continued. After all, it is the capital of the
new country. But the last ‘town power’ in Juba was supplied on October 5th and it has now
been almost two weeks with no sign of town electricity. ‘We have no fuel’ for the generators,
we have been told. Fuel has been in short supply in Juba but new supplies became available
a few days ago – but still no town power. Maybe it is a case of not having the money to buy
Leading up to independence a huge amount of hurried work took place upgrading Malakal
airport. Construction of a new international terminal was moving quickly. One could not help
but be impressed that the modern new terminal was taking shape – especially since it had
been partly constructed for several years – after two previous construction firms, at
considerable intervals apart, walked off the job when they were not paid. This time it will be
finished, we thought. Two weeks ago, the pace of construction had noticeably slowed but
there was still a little work going on. Yesterday, although it was a normal working day, I noted
the site gates were locked and there was no construction activity.
No doubt there is money flowing into Juba. Large, new, premium model, four-wheel drives
are proliferating on the roads. Congested traffic is rapidly becoming the norm even with the
improvement made to the roads since the war ended. Obviously, some people are
prospering. I find myself surmising that money is reaching the pockets of the leaders but not
much is getting through to support basic infrastructure. That is not good for the normal
people of South Sudan.
Sudan, in the north, has made it more difficult by not allowing goods to flow over the border.
There are rumours that the President, Al Bashir, is no longer in effective control. There are
still agreements to be negotiated over revenue-sharing from oil – and debt sharing. How
much of the present difficulties will turn out to be only the consequence of short term
posturing is simply not known. I think general optimism still prevails; but it is clear that even
in a climate of good will, it will take time – and integrity – for a sound new infrastructure to be
developed in South Sudan.
- Br Bill
In the interim between my writing the above and having access to the Internet to send it out,
Juba town power returned. Al hamdu lilah! …. But it only lasted three hours!
- Br Bill