Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 5 January 2013

I WISH YOU A BETTER JUBA IN 2013.

By Steven Wöndu

January 4, 2013 - I am recycling and article I posted in the middle of the year 2012 complaining about the health and security or rather, the lack of health and security in Juba. Today, we are beginning the year 2013 in a Juba that is even filthier and more dangerous to live in.

I do not have the desire to talk about the dirt anymore because the people and the authorities do not seem ton appreciate the logic of public health. Grass is allowed to grow to my height between the roads and the walls of residential houses, offices and public facilities. Plastic bottles, food cans and garbage on walkways everywhere as if there was not a single government official responsible for urban management!

These days our school campuses are surrounded by shops and all kinds of commercial activities. An example is the Dr John Garang Secondary School, formerly Juba Girls. What a disgrace to Dr John Garang! The entire campus perimeter is now taken over by factories, warehouses and stores. There is no visual link between staff houses and the dormitories any more. Who allowed this and why? One would have thought that as adults, our primary responsibility is the protection of children, especially the girls.

The schools are finished and so the investors are invading the churches and mosques. The Bari Parish Church is no longer visible from any direction. The grand mosque in what used to be a parade ground in down town Juba is now engulfed, just like the one at Konyokonyo. Now ‘development’ is starting around the All Saints Cathedral of the Episcopal Church. The western side has already been fenced off. The fencing has nothing to do with the construction of new church facilities. A foreign investor is quietly putting up a hotel or a line of shops right in front of the Cathedral.

Before the liberation of South Sudan, the space between Hai Malakal and the orchards near the river was a cemetery. Today it is home to tragic shanties and big warehouses. Is it conceivable that those investors excavated the bones of our departed relatives without colluding with some of us in public offices? Why are squatters allowed to dwell on graves? Is there no red line, no abomination, no taboo in our culture any more?

Let me turn to my pet subject of naming the roads and numbering the plots. There are fundamental practical reasons why urban streets, roads, lanes, and boulevards are named or numbered. The simplest reason is that it gives us a platform to celebrate the geography, history and culture of our country. In a small space we have an opportunity to display Jekou, Chukudum, Wau, Kapoeta, Yambio, Lol, Sue, Jur, Yei, Imatong, Gumbiri, Mayat, Sobat, Kineti, Tombura, Deng, Lolik, Majok, Tete, Nyankir, Awate, Lita, Tafeng, Naivasha, Machakos, Torit, Bor, Addis Ababa etc. We can seize the opportunity to teach ourselves the number line by having First Street, Second Street, Third Street etc. We can use this space to remind ourselves of the alphabet, B Street, M Street, J Street etc. This would be another opportunity to learn the campus; Fifth Street East, D Street North, Mundri Road West, Kajokaji Road South, etc.

Naming and numbering makes ordinary daily life easier for everyone. The shop you are looking for is at Number 7, Munuki Road. My house is number 52 on Logali Street. One would not need to describe the relationship between the house and the big tree. One does not need to say anything about the colour of the gate and roof.

Consider how names and numbers can assist security officials. In their secret files, they identify ‘subjects of interest’ with the numbers of buildings and street names. Some buildings and facilities need security monitoring. Examples include diplomatic premises, financial institutions and sensitive installations. The addresses of such properties have to be exact and the only way of achieving precision is street names and plot numbers. When pursuing a suspect, the police should be able to call a backup to a specific coordinate using road intersections and numbers of buildings. The security agents need to respond fast and this requires precise and unambiguous information about the location of the incident. Same thing can be said about Ambulance and Fire Services. These things sound obvious but why we are not able to do it beats me and it hurts! Many officials have visited Tokyo and Kigali near here. Can we not even copy?

Folks, I wish you a cleaner and safer Juba in 2013 so that I will not have to recycle this article in January 2014.

The author is the South Sudan’s Auditor General.