Thursday, September 29, 2011

Taliban Tweet Battle....yo

The following is an exchange between the Taliban spokesman (spox), Abdulqaqhar Balkhi, and the International Security Assistance Force's twitter-guy. From the Guardian:

ISAF: "Re: Taliban spox on #Kabul attack: the outcome is inevitable. Question is how much longer will            terrorist put innocent Afghans in harm's way?" 

Taliban: "@ISAFmedia i dnt knw.u hve bn pttng thm n 'harm's way' fr da pst 10 yrs. Razd whole vllgs n mrkts.n stil hv da nrve to tlk bout 'harm's way" 

ISAF: "Really, @abalkhi? UNAMA reported 80% of civilians causalities are caused by insurgent (your) activities" 

Taliban: @ISAFmedia UNAMA is an entity of whom? mine or yours?


That was a few weeks ago. They're still fighting today:

ISAF: 11 children among dead. Noticed  didn't tweet this one.

But who ever is in charge of the ISAF twitter page is fully engaged, as seen in today's exchange with  Joshuafoust

h/t: Harith Ramli

Friday, September 23, 2011

Machine gun preacher and SS Cinema

"Is there any movie about South Sudan?" a good friend and SPLA soldier asks me in Juba Arabic.

"Non that I know. Although I heard they are making a movie about a khawaja who is apparently rescuing children from the LRA" I reply.

He stares at me blankly.....not so much because my Juba Arabic is incomprehensible but because the idea of the only movie about South Sudan is about a white guy. A white guy that he has never even heard of.

The Machine Gun Preacher movie premiered on the 21st somewhere far enough away from the location of where the story comes from, that the peripheral characters are unable to stand up and scream

"Who are these people and when the hell did any of that happen?!"

I could go on to talk about Sam Childers' methodology with explosive cynicism, but there are plenty of other blog posts that have covered this issue in the past. But I won't. I would however like to refer you to this rather interesting article written by Sister Rose Pacatte, the National Catholic Reporter's official film reviewer. For those of you who have been following the story of the Machine Gun preacher, you may notice that the quotes used in this article suggests that Sam Childers has somewhat come to realise the faults of his own actions and is dialing down the self-righteous machoism.......he still sounds batshit crazy though.

Anyways, at the moment, my biggest problem with this is that this preachy piece of shit is going to be the first movie about South Sudan. And I mean movie movie, documentaries don't count because most of the world's population can't quite be bothered to watch a documentary.

However this movie portrays South Sudanese is how the world will come to see them, a nation who needed a single white knight to come and rescue their children. Forgotten will be the struggle of the South Sudanese soldiers who fought for decades to achieve their freedom. From what I can see in the previews, this movie may even go so far as to portray the SPLA as being an impedance to the protection and rescue of the children.
For me that is probably the worst crime of this movie.
Luckily, there are those out there who want to do justice. Lekan Ayinde and Dare Folder. Two Nigerian film makers who have come to Juba to produce "Salt of The Nation"

The director says that "Salt of the Nation" is about "the Sudan of yesterday, today and tomorrow." Folder said the movie addresses the struggle South Sudan has gone through and the challenges it will face after the referendum.

I for one will be saving my popcorn for this film to be available (I think the movie might already be out, but I have not been able to find it anywhere).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Yes, a new capital.

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.