A quick update. I’m back in Juba after a quick trip down south to Nimule National Park; I’m now tied up in a week’s worth of meetings on the designs for the future South Sudan National Archives building, and on fire safety and pest control in our current location (which is conveniently full of bugs and dodgy wiring, with rains coming). I’m also trying to keep the flagging staff motivated, while looking for key files for digitisation (see after the cut for a good historical find), and organising staff meetings and teams on future protection issues in the medium-term before we get our beautiful shiny permanent building in 2015.
Monthly Archives: March 2013
This is probably not the advised method of moving archives around a town; but we have too much paper and we’re trying to resort 2000 files from Equatoria Province in a small house with no air con. Give us a break.
There are a few places in the centre of Juba Town where returned, destitute Southerners have put up tents and shacks, often strung from the eaves of other houses and businesses, on the sides of the road. Most of the inhabitants of these street villages are old women and very young children in the daytime, with younger women returning and cooking in the evening, as well as some older disabled men.
So today, passing the crossing with the rubbish dump that houses several well-established families – including one tent that has been there for at least a year – I was surprised to see a bulldozer, no tents, and groups of people sitting, visibly angrily, by the side of the road, holding folded burlap and rolled bed matting.
I’ve written about Central Equatoria State/Juba Town Council’s happy go lucky policies of ‘kasha’ – land clearance – and their blind eye to land clearance done by ministries and other powerful people. I had been wondering when Juba Town would pull a Khartoum on their poor residents; apparently it’s started today.
Everyone here in Juba says that they know the importance of documentation. Everyone says they do information-based programming, and use research-informed, evidence-based thinking. This is often, in my experience, complete nonsense. What Juba produces is endless reporting, often circular and frequently based on the same tiny pools of sometimes inaccurate or irrelevant data, or the same beleaguered researchers; and it discusses its information through endless, endless workshops.
Enjoyably, too, this system of workshop-based attempts at prioritising information were pervasive in the 1972 post-Addis Ababa Agreement peace period, according to the lovely files in the South Sudan National Archives project.
Doodles of the speakers from the Rift Valley Institute/Centre for Peace and Development Studies Juba Lectures 2013
Paleki Matthew Obur, South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network
The podcasts for all of the Juba Lectures 2013 are available online to download for free – and it’s worthwhile, as the debates this week have been dominated by South Sudanese voices asking questions and making strong points about how they see (or want to see) the basis of Southern political, cultural and social life built in the constitution.
Last night’s debate focused mainly on the basis of laws – and therefore social and political justice – in South Sudan. Much of the conversation revolved around the death penalty, still legal and carried out regularly here; execution – and the ability of which courts, traditional or legislative, to carry it out – served as a focal point for concerns over how conservative Southern society should be; whether “traditional” justice should be changed fast or actually codified and preserved as is; and the inability of youth and other marginalised people to challenge older generations and vested systems.
Thursday night was also well-attended at Juba University for Jacob Akol’s talk on the concept of the House of Nationalities in South Sudan; the panel then led an open debate on issues of language, women’s positions, traditional justice and marriage systems, mother tongues, the rights to move within the South and the invisibility of disabled people in the country.
The podcasts for all the lectures can be found on the RVI website.
Debate was lively, but no progress was made on how it would really work to incorporate and ‘deal with’ ethnicities in South Sudan through the constitution and elsewhere in national life. As one speaker said, “one nation, one culture, one language hasn’t got us anywhere in the last fifty years.”
The Juba Lectures 2013 have started, and I am exhausted: I organised the speakers and panels in the last three weeks as the local Rift Valley Institute hand here, and have spent most of my time running around Juba on the back of a motorbike trying to meet a variety of VIPs and activists of various stripes to speak on the constitutional process in South Sudan.
Professor Akolda Tier, the chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission and a quiet, academic and conservative man, was our keynote speaker last night, on a panel set up to focus on practicalities: is there the political will to actually create a new constitution, and would it involve a consultative process? Why has the commission still not started, despite it overrunning its mandated period? Is the two year extension a political move designed to put off elections in 2015? Etc.