|Suck my decadence (photo credit: David Adams)|
(Update 15/9/11: See comments for my fail)
Sorry for the absence but apparently I have greater access to the internet in Juba than I do in my current location.....also, I had not come across anything that enraged me enough to encourage me to write........
So the Government of South Sudan has somewhat recently announced that it is planning to move the capital to a state-neutral area called Ramciel. This is not the first time GoSS has made this announcement and there seems to be just as much criticism to the idea this time around. Some Smug faced Guardian newspaper journalists has so kindly shared his view on the matter based on his "lightning visit" of Juba. The legend that is John Ashworth has so succinctly explained in the comments section
"A lightning visit" sums up the international media's understanding of South Sudan.It is evident in reading the article and its romanticised description of Juba as some wild west town that the writer is missing some pretty important arguments as to why GoSS has come to this decision. You can find some more elaborate explanations in the comments section written by some South Sudanese, but here is my summary:
- As the article suggests, Juba is growing very rapidly. However, the land around it does not belong to the government. As the South Sudan Land Act 2009 indicates, land is primarily owned by the "community". The land that surrounds Juba is owned by the Bari community, who are not particularly happy with Juba expanding anymore than it already has. So they can pretty much charge whatever they want for the land, and are very much motivated to charge ridiculous prices to discourage any further expansion. Therefore moving to newer cheaper land may be just as cost effective as staying (I am merely speculating and will not be doing the calculations for this).
- Starting from scratch will mean that the government is able to plan out the new city much better to allow for infrastructure to be developed much more efficiently. For example, the current water supply system in Juba are rather small pipes that have been barely submerged in the ground. When ever it rained, the pipe near where I lived would be exposed, punctured and would turn the road into a river. Wasting treated water as well as making it a bitch for me to get home.
- Actually, screw this.....the article says "For outsiders, the decision [of moving the city] seems baffling", then fine, be baffled. People on the inside are just as baffled as to how the Guardian would publish such poorly researched articles. I've heard South Sudanese primary school children come out with more intelligence on development issues than this garbage.
Although one point I would like to make that is independent of the Guardian article is that I worry about the motivation of selecting the location for the new capital. While it is great that the government is trying to keep everyone happy*, I fear that always making concessions to all parties as opposed to making decisions based on actual merits may be a shot in the foot in the long term. Nothing can make everyone happy all the time.
To my friends still working in Juba, the capital city moving away simply means that you can still be based in Juba with all its bars and swimming pools while having the bonus 'badass points' of saying your living in the field.
* even though the Ramciel, while straddling multiple states is in fact very much Dinka country. Credit goes to Chagai in the comments section of the Guardian article for this one.