Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Prefailed state?

It's not good when The Economist calls your country a "Prefailed State" before it is even a legitimate state!


Also interesting that in 2009 more people are dying on a day to day basis from conflict in Southern Sudan than in Darfur.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Read this article!!!!!

This is the best article I have seen about Southern Sudan in a long, long time. Please read it.


Interestingly enough, my organization facilitated the visit of the two reporters to Juba 2 weeks ago. They were supposed to be writing about Malaria in Southern Sudan. This is what they wrote instead.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Storytelling: God of Rain

***I am going to start posting a series of stories. Some stories are mine, and some stories belong to others. I leave it up to all of you to decide which ones are which. And no, judging whether the story is written in 1st or 3rd person will not help you!***


22 kilometers off the main road from the town of Kapoeta in the South East of Southern Sudan a charity organization based in this small village was very excited at the prospect of setting up their new generator. It had been 1 year of operations without electricity in that location, with the mainly Kenyan staff driving the 1 hour each way it takes down the bumpy road to Kapoeta several times a week to check and send emails.


As a side note, and completely unrelated to this story (or maybe not???), this is a region where use of clothing is alternative at best and optional to say the least. Unmarried women are bare-chested and married women tie a piece of cloth over one shoulder, exposing only their right breast. It is completely common for men to wear no clothing at all, and if they do wear anything, it is only a shirt. This village Chief, for example, favors wearing nothing but a suit jacket. In meetings with him you have to sit and manage to have a serious conversation about the future of your program all the while looking him in the eye and keeping a straight face and trying not to visibly react when his 1 year old grandson crawls under his legs, looks up, and STARTS PLAYING WITH THE CHIEF'S ROD AND TACKLE with no reaction whatsoever from the Chief himself. Not even a glance in the direction of the grandson. If that is not a trial in self control I don't know what is.


Finally the anticipated day arrived and the generator was installed, hooked up, and turned on. BRRRRRRRRRUP BRRRRRUP BRRRRUP BRRUP BRRUP BRRUP BRRUP BRRUP went the generator, and after the cheers of job from the staff all hell broke loose. Villagers came running in from every direction totally freaking out, shouting "Shut it off! Shut it off!" very visibly distressed. Two things were the matter. One, no one in that village had ever heard the sound of a generator before and did not know what it was. Second, all the shouting villagers were gathering around one tree in the compound. It turns out that the piece of land given to the organization by the village Chief to build the compound happened to be the location of the one sacred tree where the village's God of Rain lived. Coincidentally the generator house was located right next to the God of Rain's Tree and when turned on, all the people were convinced the noise would anger the God of Rain and bring death and destruction to the village. Why was this organization never told they were the protectors of the God of Rain? No way to tell.

Three months later the solar panels arrived, and weeds had begun growing around the generator.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Attack on UN Barge in Jonglei

For some reason it doesn't bother me that the world has no idea what is going on in Southern Sudan. I suppose I have grown sufficiently cynical that I believe that there is only so much information that people can take in over the course of the day, and understanding a war in a place someone has never heard of that seemingly has no outward connection to the "Western World" could just be too much to ask for. Why would this make the top world news headlines in a time of economic crisis, nuclear bomb tests in North Korea, and EU elections?

A part of me strongly believes that if more countries got involved, it would make things even worse. Sometimes people just need to work things out themselves. But in this case, people have been left to work things out themselves for over 50 years and things have not gotten any better. I do not believe the CPA to be a peace agreement, it is acting as merely a five year ceasefire until the referendum in 2011. There is much being done to undermine the CPA, both overtly and covertly. Backing of the LRA as well as other armed tribal groups to carry out attacks within Southern Sudan to name one.

But this incident? This is not good. The barges carrying food from WFP were headed to Akobo, in Jonglei, which is the same state from my previous post (although still 2 days drive away from where I was). What I didn't mention in that post was that this region has been plagued by clashes between Dinka and Murle, Jikani Nuer and Murle, etc. Cattle raids, abducting children, etc. Hundreds of people killed at this point over the course of a few months. But now that they've attacked a UN agency? That is when this issue gets picked up by the international media. Not only did they attack a UN convoy, but the convoy had an escort from the SPLA, the army of Southern Sudan. These are Southerners fighting Southerners.

What will happen if the South votes for independence in 2011 and people realize they do not have a common enemy anymore?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jonglei - and more pictures!

On my recent trip up to Jonglei State we stopped at one of the cattle camps by the Nile to take pictures and attempt talk to people. There are thousands of cows at these camps sprinkled throughout Southern Sudan.
The people there were great and all the men, one by one, lined up to have their photos taken with their chosen cow. Not their wives, mind you, but their cows. I really should have invested in a polaroid camera so I could leave the people with something! Imagine seeing a picture of yourself for the very first time on a digital camera, and then having it taken away.
In addition, people take ash from burning cattle dung and rub it all over themselves and the cows to keep away insects.

It turns a greyish color on the skin.

The smell is intense to say the very least. However, it was very strange when I stepped with my Crocs (yes, I wear Crocs here. Screw you if you think they're dorky.) directly into a lovely concoction of cow shit and mud. I let it go for a bit, but then before climbing back into the vehicle spent a few minutes scraping the muck off my feet and leg. Of course there were quite a few people standing around the vehicle at that point, curious at the Khawajas, and when I looked up at one point I just thought, "Huh. These people are watching me carefully scrape this stuff off of me while they go out of their way to purposefully rub it onto themselves."

It's so interesting to see the differences across the different regions of this country. How the houses (tukuls) look,

the scenery, the people, the churches,

and yes, even the cows. The large structure on the left of the photo is the house for the cows and the one on the right is for the goats. The people sleep either outside or in a small hut out back. Shows you where people's values lie!

Driving back after the cattle camp we came across millions of cows being driven up the main road. I'm telling you, there were millions! The governor of Central Equitoria state told everyone tending cattle in his state to move to Jonglei, where there is tons more room, and it is where their part of the Dinka tribe is from. So there was a mass migration north, making our 5 hour drive actually take 6.
There was a separate migration once we got closer to Juba - the Mundari tribe was moving their cattle north from Juba to Terekeka County (still in Central Equitoria State). When we passed the herds of Dinka cattle they were very orderly and well behaved. The Mundari cattle, on the other hand, were all over the place! Wandering off the road, stopping in front of the vehicle and refusing to move, and just being ornery. Maybe they missed their breakfast that morning.