I live in a suburb of Juba now, called Munuki, on the road to Godele, running out towards north of Jebel Kujur. It’s a really nice place, gentrifying fast with endless concrete being shipped in in the morning, and with new shops being built everywhere, and stacked onto older structures. There is a hot business in welding spiral staircases.
My safety is pretty reasonable. Munuki street life shuts down at about 9pm and I’m always in my compound by then, or getting a reliable taxi home. I live in one of the many concrete-and-razorwire compounds dotted around the streets surrounding Souk Libya, the main market, in a tiny concrete hut at the back of a local MP’s house. The MP’s nephew, a middle-aged SPLA sergeant, is on permanent, low-key duty, drinking tea, cooking beans and watching the house. I have keys for everything and more. It was a great find by my friend Richard Tongu.
While I know this, though, the more paranoid and contained sides of the “international community” here don’t. Most UN staff don’t know where Munuki is; the UN guidance on moving around outside the centre of town is bizarrely terrifying, like reading about a place I’ve never been. To me, I have a wonderful life, a separate bathroom block, a kitchen room being built and tiled as I write, a market two minutes away and a local trader across the street who gets out my standard order when he sees me: one Nile Special, one large bottle of water, three passionfruit and some rice.
I have a fabulous lifestyle here (in comparison to my likely future conditions during my PhD research year). It feels like the UN-style interpretation of Juba is about five years behind in Munuki, where I have Philip, Gonda and Alex making sure I get home every evening, I have my nails done weekly (extravagance!) by Joseph or Jimmy in the market, I splash out on cheese once a week, and I buy ridiculously frilly dressing gowns from the second hand clothes seller Lillian, to wear while cooking my falafel and rice in the evenings in the courtyard. Everyone here says that there is petty theft but very little robbery: the “Niggas” gangs who plagued Munuki have mostly left, moving out to Mia Saba and Godele where there are fewer GoSS dignitaries and armed compounds. The land disputes are mostly settled in the local court, which is relatively quiet now. There are serious problems – including massive local unemployment among my contemporaries – and I am still taking good care of myself; but I am currently bemused by the security rating of my very fancy life.