Looking into the distance towards the south-east from the balcony of my room, I can see the way home from the diminutive images of vehicles plying the Juba/Nimule Highway, probably more than ten kilometers from where I am standing. If all goes according to plan, I will probably be bidding South Sudan farewell in less than two months when the project that I have been working for comes to a close.
I returned to this project back in mid 2013 having earlier served one year term. Like now, the grassland and the hills were green since it was the middle of the rainy season and it was much exciting to return to Juba after a few months break back home in Uganda. And it would be lovely to leave Juba for Uganda around this time of the year than say during the dry season, for when I look back I would have memories of a green and fair weather Juba than the usual dust and heat. With all the rounds of peace talks in Addis Ababa between the warring factions of the SPLA, I had hoped that I would leave a peaceful South Sudan behind me, after all peace building has been one of the objectives of our project – The New Nation newspaper. But as things look now, peace in South Sudan, especially in the oil-producing states of Upper Nile and Unity states is a very distant hope. My black brothers are up in arms again blowing each other up and capturing towns and villages and some proudly claim to have doctorates in fighting. Some others are wishing that they would be better left to fight it out all alone without mediation or “interference” by regional governments and international – for in that way a clear winner would emerge and the people of South Sudan will finally have peace, so they think.
Well, time will tell what direction this country, the so-called youngest nation of the world will take. But for now, it is clearly on the path of a failed state if the situation is not arrested.
When we arrived in Juba this Saturday it took several hours to find a shop selling bottled drinking water, something that one could buy in any shop and kiosk in Juba a few months ago. Many water factories here have closed shop because they cannot afford the cost of production or there is no hard currency to purchase the necessary chemicals used in the process of producing clean safe water for human consumption.
The lady who cleans our premises and has a part-time business serving breakfast to truck drivers at a nearby beverage factory is thinking of closing shop because there are hardly any more customers to serve since there are fewer and fewer trucks picking up supplies or delivering materials to the factory.
The way to our office is anything but a road; there are potholes and stones nearly in every inch of the road. The army officer who lived nearby and often mobilized funds from the community to have the road graded and expanded is no longer available. His corner shop at the end of the road which was a source groceries to the neighborhood and also a national television public viewing joint was ransacked and is now home to soldiers who play cards all day long on the verandah. I can only wonder where that military office went to?
Things are looking quite grim at the immigration office at the border point where we passed the last weekend. Instead of the long queues we were used to have our passports stamped, we hardly took a minute to be processed since there were very few people coming into the country through that port.
Whenever, I am either on my way home or back to Juba, I often wonder when the people of South Sudan will settle down, beat their weapons into cutlasses and plough shares and cultivate these vast tracts of land. Or when will the Juba/Nimule Highway be an avenue of pine forests and farms like it is with the approaches of the capitals of Kenya and Uganda instead of bush and garbage. It would be good to see more tractors and bullion vans instead of military tanks and de-mining machines along the highways.
So much for South Sudan, may God save Africa and its people from self-destruction. I hope I will return with my family which so much wishes to visit, to a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan some day. No need to say lets just kiss and say goodbye.