Tag Archives: panic

‘Fieldwork’ time: moving on from Juba


A hat made of a plastic football, in Juba.

I’m re-starting my PhD properly on Thursday, after six months of working on my Arabic, which is still only shweya, and on the South Sudan National Archives, which is also shweya, although a little less of a mushkila than when I arrived.  I’m leaving Juba for Aweil – after my previous trip, I think it’s a good enough place to start work – on Thursday, with no real fixed plan after that.

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Filed under Academia, Africa, History, South Sudan, Travel

Juba updates

  • Ever since the very worrying announcement of Machar’s (constitutionally, legally) curtailed powers last week, there have been dozens of SPLA, heavily armed, stationed at each roundabout in the centre of Juba, and posted along the roads to the airport.  Ominous or precautionary?  Taxi drivers are advising staying in after 10pm, and I am.
  • I am wrapping up my work with the Rift Valley Institute, and at the South Sudan National Archives, this coming Friday.  I panicked, at 2am last night, that I hadn’t arranged for the handover of the RVI office in Wau; then I remembered, RVI in South Sudan is just me at the moment, and I don’t have an office in Wau.

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Filed under Africa, Archives, Domestic bliss, Politics, South Sudan, Travel

The rumour mill in Juba

I’m trying to get back into the rumour mill in Juba, now I’m moved out to Munuki.  Nobody in the so-called “international community” knows where I’m living: I’m actually living in a relatively close, gentrifying suburb – I think of it as the Camberwell of Juba – with a good market and a good bus route.  But because I’m close to Mia Saba, which while also gentrifying is a bit more rough and ready (Hoxton?), and still befriending the neighbours and their tens of assorted children, I’d like to get back into the networks that count as 24-hour local news channels here.

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Filed under Current affairs, Politics, South Sudan

Alternative narratives of corruption and political pressure in the South Sudan referendum: a rebalancing

I’m quite frustrated with this piece by Jort Hemmer at the SSRC blog today.  The article is, to me, an oversimplification, when I think it could be trying to say something more balanced and really pertinent.

Hemmer contrasts the general success of the referendum with an ‘alternative narrative’ of rigging, intimidation and, in his quote from Mareike Schomerus, an “environment of fear” surrounding the mobilisation of the “yes” vote.

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Filed under Politics, Referendum, Sudan

The referendum

The clock is literally ticking in Juba in the run-up to the Southern Sudan referendum on secession.

It’s very hard not to be quite tense this weekend over the conduct of the referendum (I even managed to have a stress dream last night about voting).  My friend Zoe has written on the longevity of the idea of secession – as a potential political reality or pragmatic bargaining chip since the 70s.  A lot of the media, taking opinions from registering Southern Sudanese, are noting the proliferation of comments about this ‘historical moment’.  Potentially some of the tension I’m feeling is because this particular historical moment has been so long used as a potential threat or reward, but not thought about as a practical reality for particularly long?

I am not feeling tense about the actual outcome of the referendum, or that events will turn violent over the weekend and war will resume – most credible commentators don’t believe this will happen, and I agree.  I’m far more concerned over the 6-month transition period – whether the issues that have been put off will be resolved, how the Abyei situation will play out, and even whether some people will become impatient and frustrated when a ‘New Sudan’ (or whatever it’ll be called – I’m currently in favour of Equatoria) fails to emerge at the end of six months.

Either way, the more I read about people celebrating the vote, the more I feel that I should put aside my tensions for Sunday, at least.  The tensions and fear are – as far as I can tell from the reporting – mostly from people in the North, fearing reprisals after a result of secession.  Most people in the South and elsewhere are excited, including in London.

Photo credit to New Sudan Vision.

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Filed under Referendum, Sudan


I’ve spent my January 1st systematically beating everyone at Wii skijump and trawling through about a week’s worth of Google news alerts for “Sudan referendum”.  I love Google alerts, mostly because they’re like a pre-programmed text analysis run on the previous day’s news that you can read on your phone in bed in the morning.

I decided to start collecting news from Google alerts in mid-October, and have been archiving – saving web pages as documents – since then, at a rate of about five a day.  I don’t really know why I decided to start: some small quotes I wanted to save, some photos, some rather special Prendergast and Clooney-led I’m A Celebrity Get Me The President stuff.  I just can’t let it go past, and I know I’ll try to refer to something in six months and find out that it’s gone.  I’m only using a selection from a Google selection – hardly representative, biased as I am towards news about returnees to the south and the Referendum Commission’s disarray.

One outcome of this is that I have now got hundreds of news reports.  I am fighting my own disposophobia, like my grandmother’s collection of useful string.  I’ve been warned by friends that the only way to deal with vast amounts of data is to start synthesising simultaneously to collecting – basically, taking hundreds of photos of documents in an archive is great but mindless, unlike the hundreds of hours you’ll then spend staring at bad handwriting on an overbright computer screen.  So resolution number one has been made for 2011: I will start going through these things.  This brings up all sorts of problems, not least with my own selective archiving process as well as analysis of large amounts of mostly irrelevant background information.  If anyone has any ideas about what to do with it all, please let me know.

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Filed under Archives, Procrastination, Sudan