Wednesday, October 15, 2008

one step forward, 2 steps back

Remember the apparently "fluke" incident with women being arrested for wearing trousers in Yei? Well, the same has now come to Juba, even being picked up by Reuters and the New York Times. And what sparked this latest rampage? County Local Order No. 4/2008 issued by the Juba County Commissioner "Banning of 'Niggers' Behaviours & Activities in the Town." This Public Order motivated Police to mount an arretst campaign against women and girls wearing trousers in streets and public places. These women were collected from streets, outside worship centers/churches, and public markets, and hauled up into police trucks. Girls were humiliated and taken into custody. This included civilians, UN employees, etc. Luckily people intervened and everyone was released with no charge.


And WHAT in GOD'S NAME prompted this order labeling behavior "niggerly"? What is that? And who are these people who are "now known as 'Niggers' in Juba County"? It's not like they give examples in the circular. I have NEVER heard this term being used here, and neither has anyone else (expat or Sudanese) that I've spoken with - but now it's become a joke, especially among Sudanese. From what we can tell, in this context, "niggers" are the Kenyans/Ugandans or Sudanese who have returned from those places who frequent bars and prostitutes, and, apparently, wear trousers. What it looks like is the Commissioner wanted to crack down on the drinking and other "immoral" behavior that is adverseley influencing the citizens of Juba, and this was his solution. From my perspective, I have never in my life heard people using this horrible term so freely and it freaks me out every time. Incredulous.

After these incidents the Juba County Commissioner has been sacked, and replaced by the Central Equitoria State Minister of Health (who I LOVE). But seriously. This serves as a reminder that even though we are in the South, this is still Sudan with a government in its infancy and a society that is still trying to navigate the effects of opening up the country after being effectively cut off from the outside for half a century.

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