Monday, March 30, 2009

Wounded War Heroes

Things have been very busy in Paradise, so busy in fact due to a week of R&R in Zanzibar!!! In my next life I want to come back as a beach bum. Or maybe I'll put my (fingers crossed) future Master's degree to work and move to the coast after I'm done with school.

Along with the newly-formed (2005) Government of Southern Sudan comes some growing pains. One of these is the budgets. Each year for the past 2 years all the Ministries submit the budgets for their sphere of influence, and then my friend F. who works for a UN agency seconded to the Ministry of Finance throws her petite Brittish 5'2"frame around scaring the bejesus out of all the Sudanese Ministers by putting them all in line to balance their budget. In 2008 there were no salaries budgeted for health care workers - that's right, all the nurses, doctors, etc who worked in health care facilities did not get paid for a LONG time. This year it's the teachers, and students actually started strikes on their behalf. Would you have gone to a riot in protest on behalf of your teachers?

Also this year were the Veterans. Groups calling themselves the "Wounded War Heroes" did not get their salaries on time, so in Yei, Nimule and Kapoeta they started causing havoc. They blocked entrances and exits into the towns, took over Customs at the border with Uganda collecting the fees at the gate and therefore making people pay twice, and "commandeered" vehicles. They imposed a house arrest on everyone in Kapoeta, and the Government had to fly in to try and work things out. Eventually the President found money to pay them, who knows from where, and they took down their roadblocks.

With Refugee International's recent publication calling for "an emergency financial rescue package in order to avoid a breakdown of law and order," it seems too much of a coincidence. The drop in oil prices and effects of the global financial crisis on Southern Sudan will obviously deal the budgets a blow, but in a Country with an official policy of "disarmmament, demobilization and reintegration" where 90% of the annual budget still goes to pay salaries of the SPLA/M, and most of the remaining 10% going to purchase arms, what will happen to the other small piece for running the country?

Who's next for the strikes, riots and roadblocks?

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