Sudanese Bureaucracy II: Patience
I had been in Sudan just over a month, and my visa had just expired. Clandestino. Trying to renew it, I start out early to the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs which I understood to be dealing with visa extensions. I am sent back over to the other side of Khartoum by a policeman, to the other Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs. “Are you sure?” I ask. He was.
Dusty and sweaty, having searched for it, traipsing for what seemed like hours, I arrive to be told that I need to go back to the building I had just come from. A series of incomprehensible protests in Arabic issued from my mouth and my mind is spinning with profanities.
Eventually, I get another address, somewhere out in eastern Khartoum, “just next to the Iraqi Embassy”. At least this one should be easier to find. Third tea-stop of the morning.
Less than a month previously I had been doing similar leg-work to register my presence in the country. Déjà-vu, with sweat trickling down my forehead.
As is often the way, one is sent from window to window, office to office, ping-ponging around the building. Having filled in the relevant forms, had them signed and stamped, I thought I was on the brink of securing my extension. There was just the general to see, who would sign it all off.
“You need a letter from your hotel”, he said. “I don’t have one”, I said. “Where are you staying?” he asked. “With friends”, I replied. “You need to bring a Sudanese person”, he said, “to guarantee you”. “Anyone?” I asked. “Anyone with an ID card.”
So I walked out of the office, grabbed the first man I saw, and stepped back into the office. He looked at me, looked at my Sudanese person, and looked back at me. “No.” His look was saying “don’t push your luck, sonny”.
Back out on the dusty streets, more profanities are being muttered. Oh, what I would give for the mild bureaucracy of Syria.
Three days later, I am back in his office with a genuine Sudanese friend. I had just been told my the administrators downstairs that my visa had expired almost a week ago and there was a fine to be paid. This could get expensive, I fear.
“Only six days?” my general asks rhetorically. With a flash of his hand, a signature exempting me from the fine, he waves us away. Corruption isn’t as bad as they make out.
“Come back tomorrow for your passport” says the veiled administrator, handing me a receipt in her black silk gloved hands.
The next day, my wallet $70 lighter for the experience, I had leave to stay in the Republic of the Sudan for another month.