I had been worried that it would not be so.
Juba is increasingly on lock-down ahead of tomorrow’s independence celebrations, with more heads of states coming to town than the city has ever seen, and the eyes of the world on this fledgling nation.
The previous evening, walking back home at around one in the morning along an unlit, dirt street takes me back towards the Nile, a group of soldiers had emerged from the shadows. “What are you doing here, at this time?” they demanded. It was not the first time. The police seem to have adopted the curfew imposed by the United Nations and American Embassy on their staff, thinking it is city-wide.
Would people be out on the streets at midnight, celebrating the moment when this fabled day, the 9th of July, comes into being?
The answer was a resounding yes, and the heavy-handedness I feared from the police, was instead smiling, uniformed men, illuminated by the flashing sirens of their cars, as people danced and waved flags around them. Long live freedom.
As candles and car headlights provided the only illumination in this city of few street-lamps, groups marched down the thoroughfares, rolling on the tarmac (where it exists), car horns mixing with vuvuzelas.
Injury came to me by my own stupidity. I had spotted a slow moving car with women hanging out of the windows. I jumped on the back to try and capture them in motion. But when the car sped up, and not wanting to be carried into the darkness of outlying streets, I jumped off. My legs could not carry me as fast as I thought, and so I ended up spilling down onto the asphalt, tucking my camera into my chest and rolling over my exposed forearm.
A policeman ran up to me, and I thought “I’m in trouble now…” But he was more confirmed by my well-being than my traffic misdemeanours. “Kulu-shay tamaam” I assured him. Everything is fine. And it was.
Tomorrow, I will wake in two hours from now, and walk towards the show-ground, ready to watch South Sudan become the world’s newest nation.