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Hiatus

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June 17, 2014 · 9:10 am

Please stop ‘birthing’ South Sudan

This is a partial response to Richard Dowden’s essay in African Arguments, 22.1.2014, which I will address further below.

I am bored to tears with the “birth” metaphor for South Sudan.  I can’t be the only one.  South Sudan became independent in 2011, prompting a wave of newspaper articles and comment about ‘the birth’.  It was ‘the birth of’ ‘a new republic,’ ‘a new nation‘, and ‘a new country‘ – pick your preferred political unit.

Two years of independence celebrations later, and yes, it was becoming extremely wearing.  As well as the standard “Christian black South and Arab Islamic North” summary of Sudan-South Sudan politics of old, it seemed that it was now necessary to preface everything about South Sudan with a birth or baby analogy.  South Sudan had had a ‘difficult birth,’ and reviews of ‘birthday celebrations’ – like I catalogued, maybe slightly sarcastically, here and here – were opportunities for people to choose their side, pro- or con-independence.

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Philosophising on money – returned refugee settlement, Juba

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Money makes the
World dance.
Dance for you
A big dance a
Great waltz
Money breaks mountain
down and irrigated deserts.
Money makes u able to
See well & show u the way
But my friend told
Me that the person
Who loves you
Because you have
Money, that person
Will bite you when
You have no money.
Money make great
Fools wise.
Money is love.
When you have a lots
Of money there re
Too many woman
Who love you.
When you’re poor
There’s hardly
Anyone to love u.
Money can buy
A human being!
Oh money, money
Hundreds of notes
Thousands of dollars &
Pound make u enjoy an
Earthly paradise but
Remember money kill!

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Aspirational Juba; an update

jubadream

Juba has a dream.  Admittedly, it’s a dream that, at the moment, makes the town look like one large concrete mixer. Continue reading

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Women and Khartoum

Mayencourt

It’s my last week in Aweil, doing research – mostly through chatting – on the history of South Sudanese community politics in Khartoum. I’ve only really been posting photos for the last five months here, mostly because I’m too busy and electricity-free, but also because I’m aware that, as a researcher in Mile 14, I’m lucky to have the research freedoms I do.

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Corruption in the archives

20130308_133354Non-telegraph transcript after the jump.

 

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Do your homework: the RVI East Africa/Horn of Africa courses 2013

Most people I meet here in Juba are frantically reading about South Sudan; pretty much anything they can get their hands on.  The sheer complexity of living and attempting to work here – let alone run organisations in South Sudan – means that, firstly, people realize that they don’t know enough; then they realize they don’t know enough history; then they realize they don’t have enough time.

Which is why pre-reading is important.  Not just the usual suspects – as I mentioned, I think, Douglas H. Johnson is out here working with me on the National Archives project and while we are a terrifying team (I hope), I am constantly reminded that he wrote the seminal book on South Sudan’s civil wars – but the extended, historical pre-reading and thought, the realization that you can’t just read about the CPA period, and the increasingly prevalent and frustrating idea that you can work in South Sudan without trying to understand Sudan.

So this is why I’m going to do a shameless plug.  Most of the heads of missions and embassies here in Juba are alumni of the Rift Valley Institute’s Field Courses; I assisted my PhD supervisor, Professor Justin Willis of Durham University, in running the 2012 course last summer.  And despite having just spent a year’s worth of time in an excellent library, in six archives, and doing very little work that wasn’t reading, writing and thinking about Sudan and South Sudan, it was extremely intensive and absolutely vital to my understanding of the two countries.

I can’t recommend the Sudan and South Sudan course enough; the other courses I hear from previous participants are just as intensive and worthwhile.  (They are also fabulous networking opportunities.)  So, despite my RVI affiliation, I’m plugging.  Find the briefs and outlines below.

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