Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 18 May 2012

Juba: ‘Filthy’ is an understatement

By Steven Wöndu

May 17, 2012 — President Salva Kiir was being polite on May 16th when he said Juba was a filthy habitat. The truth of the matter is that Juba is not only dirty; it is dangerous and much worse. People disappear without trace. Citizens cannot call for police help because the streets have no numbers or names. Homes and buildings have no numbers or addresses. The security personnel cannot radio for backup in pursuit of a suspect because of the lack of street names and numbers. It is even impossible to direct a guest to a house by phone. Telling someone to turn left after passing the brown dog is useless. This is despite the fact that Juba is well planned with adequate provision for streets. There is no credible explanation for the chaos.

Garbage collection is not rocket science. We do not need Professor Albert Einstein’s intervention. We need not invent our own model of waste management either. We only have to do what other urban authorities do. Make a law or regulation that requires every landlord or tenant to display the number of the property in a specified manner at the entrance. Failure to comply would attract a hefty fine. Make another law or regulation that requires every household or office to buy a rubbish bin supplied by the authorities. Days of collection are agreed between the authorities and the contractor. Again, failure to comply is punishable. The town has already been cleverly zoned out. There is money to be made through the scheme of waste management. Let us award contracts, in a fair competitive manner, to several garbage collectors for Munuki, Kator, Hai Tarawa, Hai Jalaba, Rujal Mafi, Hai Mayo, Tonyping etc. I’ll have a word about these names later.

There is no reason I can think of why we do not have a scientifically safe treatment for the rubbish we generate. Pouring it on the Yei Road is like relocation trash from the bedroom to the living room. If we cannot invest in public hygiene, we cannot call ourselves an urban authority.

One year into our independence, we have not thought of indigenizing our names. We have decided to keep the name ‘Sudan’. But that does not mean we also have to retain all other Arabic names. Central Equatoria State got rid of ‘Bahr el Jebel’. We are looking forward to the return of Western Upper Nile. If you ask me, I would indigenize the names of areas like Buluk, Mayo, Jalaba etc. Someone told me that Nzara was Zande for Ansar. If true I would ask Western Equatoria State to change that.

Professor Peter Tingwa can speak for himself but I remember him telling me that there was need to ensure that we, the indigenous citizens of this country, must retain our names. Ideally, we should dump the European and Arab names adopted to indicate that we are Christians or Muslims. My neighbour Deng Alor and many others in the Dinka and Nuer communities have done it. Most people find it difficult to emulate his example but a compromise is always available. Let everyone be limited to only one foreign name if he/she so desires on the basis of human rights. Let us not have Mary John, Joseph Edward, Doctor Cook, Joyce Joseph, Mohammed Jibril, Abdelrahman Ibrahim, Awadia Morris. All these people do have real African family names, but for some twisted logic of inferiority, strange names are preferred. If we cannot rescue the current generation from this kind of domination, can our education system save the next by requiring children to register in their real family names in schools?

This takes me back to President Salva Kiir’s mild criticism of the state of affairs in Juba. One disaster I wish he knew is that two of our school campuses are now walled in by shops. The former Juba Girls Secondary School, renamed after Dr John Garang, is now a market. The entire campus of former Mahad Intermediate School, later used by the occupying Sudan Army mechanized division, is now a commercial warehouse. The cemetery nearby is now an industrial park. As Dr John Garang would say, I am not making it up. That, Mr President, is the Juba we live in; filthy, stinky, dangerous, chaotic, confused, no protection of children and no respect whatsoever for graves.

The author is the former Sudanese Ambassador to Japan