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South Sudan

Watching South Sudan's Decline

Watching South Sudan's Decline

Every time I arrive in Juba, there is visible change. The city sprawls further and further; from the air, a patchwork of metal roof-tops in primary colours, where once stood straw-roofed *tukuls*. Since my last visit, in January, the land around Juba has transformed into a thick, lush green, nurtured by the rains from the …

South Sudan: Shattered Dreams

South Sudan: Shattered Dreams

Discussing the new multimedia project I have just been working on, for IRIN news - South Sudan: Shattered Dreams …

Back in South Sudan

Back in South Sudan 

 It was all set-up. The contacts were made, the logistics organised, and the story there. Conflict has been raging in Blue Nile state in  Sudan , following the fashion of  South Kordofan . 

 But then things fell through, and this trip to South Sudan turned into a waiting game. And an expensive one at that. 

 Juba is not a place to live cheaply, and as I paid $85 a night for a bed in a container—the smell of the local abattoir wafting over—I was given plenty of time to reflect on how fast this city is developing. I was  last here  in July, covering the  independence celebrations . Roads are transforming from dirt to tarmac, buildings are going up, and businesses are opening. 

 The main basketball courts have been refurbished—basketball is the national sport here in the land of six-foot-plus being the “average” height—and tonight, it was full. Two former NBA stars were here to promote sport and peace. 

 But in many parts of South Sudan and its borders, peace is still far from arriving. And so was I. Funds have run low, plans have fallen through and promises not kept. An empty-handed return to Nairobi looks likely. Whilst the city is developing, much of its bureaucracy and procedures are not. Things take a long time here

Back in South Sudan

It was all set-up. The contacts were made, the logistics organised, and the story there. Conflict has been raging in Blue Nile state in Sudan, following the fashion of South Kordofan.

But then things fell through, and this trip to South Sudan turned into a waiting game. And an expensive one at that.

Juba is not a place to live cheaply, and as I paid $85 a night for a bed in a container—the smell of the local abattoir wafting over—I was given plenty of time to reflect on how fast this city is developing. I was last here in July, covering the independence celebrations. Roads are transforming from dirt to tarmac, buildings are going up, and businesses are opening.

The main basketball courts have been refurbished—basketball is the national sport here in the land of six-foot-plus being the “average” height—and tonight, it was full. Two former NBA stars were here to promote sport and peace.

But in many parts of South Sudan and its borders, peace is still far from arriving. And so was I. Funds have run low, plans have fallen through and promises not kept. An empty-handed return to Nairobi looks likely. Whilst the city is developing, much of its bureaucracy and procedures are not. Things take a long time here

South Sudan International

The first game of South Sudan’s international squad. Admittedly, not a fully international fixture, for they were playing a Kenyan team, Tusker F.C.

The newly rennovated Juba stadium was packed. People pressed up against the wire fences, sitting on walls around the grounds. Every seat in the stands was taken.

South Sudan got off to a good start, scoring the first goal. The final score was 3-1. The South Sudanese had scored three! Unfortunately, two of them were in their own net.

Pole, pole, as the Kenyans would say. “Slowly, slowly.”

South Sudan’s Independence Day

As the crowds swelled below the podium where AFP had a spot and a very long lens, the scene lay out below me reminded me of the history books. Of the black and white photographs of African independence from the sixties. The Colonialists handing back the countries they had taken, and ravaged. Here in Juba, Omar al-Bashir, the president of the previously unified Sudan, was in attendance, ready to hand over South Sudan to Kiir and his men.

Thousands had come out, and sat through the day under a baking Juba sun. The lines of soldiers, many who had fought through the long, bitter war with the north, occasionally had someone drop amongst their ranks. The sun taking its toll as Red Cross stretchers whipped away the feinted.

The armoured vehicles of South Africa swept in, their gunmen training their huge rifles on the thousands gathered as Jacob Zuma made his way to his seat. Museveni’s entourage seemingly went on for almost as many years as his rule.

I had had two hours sleep since last night’s celebrations, little water and less food. We wrestled with the over protective security, freshly laminated badges hanging around our necks. Elbows were out. Tempers were fraying with some of those around me who were fresh to South Sudan and its protocol.

Everything was inevitably delayed. Speeches went on. And on. There were not enough seats for the dignitaries; but the generals of this army chivalrously gave up theirs for these fresh-faced “guests of honour”, amongst them, Britain’s own foreign secretary. (We heard rumours that someone had the unenviable job of advising him to wear a cap to cover his balding head from the Sudanese sun.)

But I felt immensely fortunate to be here, six months after covering the referendum and its subsequent results announced preliminarily in Juba and then formally in Khartoum. Honoured to be here at this moment in history, to be one of the (many) photographers to capture this moment and leave a record on the history books.

As the sun dropped, I jumped on the back of a motorcycle and sped across the eerily empty streets of this new capital, a dash to file my images.

Tables of exhausted journalists sat around our usual haunt, and despite resolves for an early night, a few of us stayed up until the following sunrise, high on the adrenaline of the day.