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Sunday, 22 October 2017

In Juba after the Separation of S. Sudan (2-10)

I boarded a low quality commercial airliner because the high quality ones didn't take the risk of flying

into the still uncharted skies and unsafe land of South Sudan .Juba airport was potholed .It was a military airstrip changed out of need and haste into an international airport. I also couldn't afford good planes given my dire financial situation. I squandered the last money l had on the kickback. My co-travelers were a collection of third world nationalities. The wealthy others were not be seen in that plane corroborating the fact how poor and inferior our plane was.  It took off early in the morning. Khartoum tall buildings appeared below us very tiny and small as the size of cigarette packet. I craned my neck to have a farewell look into my humble residence in the outskirts of Omdurman but the airplane flew directly southwards following the course of the White Nile. When I surveyed the countenances of the passengers I discovered that the only smiling and happy faces were those of South Sudanese .They were euphoric following the landslide vote in favour of the separation . Their sly and self-aggrandizing politicians were very generous in heaping dreams by painting a rosy picture of a paradise-like southern Sudan with it's second class south Sudanese being elevated to first class ones after ages of being relegated to second class citizens. The Southerners  who use air travel were the privileged and the well-to do ones that reality could be explained by how they dressed and what their hands carried from gadgets and high-tech mobile phones .The majority of the poor and disposed southerners were crammed into lorries with their possessions and dumped for months and even years in Kosti river port awaiting the rare chance to board ships for Malakal .The were left to fend for themselves in crowded and squalid makeshift camps at the mercy of the unpredictable  natural conditions. My neighbor was an inquisitive Chinese man with typical narrow south and Eastern Asian eyes . He wanted to know everything about me .What my home town was? Why was I traveling to south Sudan?  Whether I was married or single? His questions were asked in halting English. When I failed to get his message he enthusiastically used signs and gesticulations to communicate what He meant .He expressed his appreciation for my spoken English and asked fervently how he could upgrade his own .When l knew that he was a frequent traveler to South Sudan I bombarded him with enquiries .What the country looked like? How secure it was? What impressed him the most about the new country?  He ignored the first questions and his face shone with happiness on the mention of the last one. He said what impressed him most is availability and cheapness of whores and alcoholics drinks .He used to be a civil engineer in a Chinese construction company which built several bridges in Sudan .He complained about how our Sudanese society conservative was compared to what he saw in South Sudan. He elaborated in citing red light areas which he frequented in Juba .Our conversation was interrupted by the voice of the stewardess announcing that we had entered south Sudan airspace .The scenery under us had immensely changed. We could only see greenness. The airplane shock violently when it approached Juba airport .Contrary to our expectations in landing in a rainy and cold Juba ,we were received with hot weather the moment we exited the air-conditioned  plane .It was an early afternoon .Soon afterwards  droplets of sweat began to form themselves on travelers foreheads. Seas of faces swarmed that tiny airport space. Unlike Khartoum airport where people are bused in and out, we walked on foot to arrival hall. The hall was painfully small, filled beyond capacity. The congestion increased whenever a new plane landed .The human gathering had precipitated an oxygen starvation. People panted as their lungs scrambled frantically to take a share from it to keep their blood circulation functional. We were left helpless. The prevailing state of anarchy and disorder kept us hostages .piles of passenger's luggage clogged the way to the immigration officers counters .Everybody was speaking on his mobile to justify the hold up for his loved ones and was struggling hard to escape this prisoner-like situation. The hall environment was very stifling leading to a profuse secretion of unpleasant bodily odors .The airport staff and employees were mostly from one ethnic group this evident from the same facial markings cut on their foreheads .The were badly undertrained and lacked expertise to deal with such situation. They seemed oblivious to the fact that they were the main cause of the mess and suffering of passengers. The way they arranged queues was clearly discriminative and lope-sided against Sudanese travelers. There were three queues. One for the nationals , the second for foreigners and the third for Sudanese who were predominantly Darfurians .Every Sudanese felt pain and humiliation from this glaring racism. Why shouldn't we accord the same treatment as the other foreigners. I noticed with disgust and consternating how westerns were told to join the queue of Southerners when it got thin while ours got swelled .I was deeply scarred by this preferential treatment of westerns from the part of airport staff .How come that our Southern brethren treat us in that mean way .Any way we were innocent citizens. We Were not politicians to pay the price of perceived historical grievances and injustices meted out on southerners. We still share a lot in common .Geography, history and many personality traits .But in retrospect the pampered westerns were apparently being repaid unsettled bills .They had vehemently championed and advocated the separation of Southern Sudan .They had fueled the secessionist tendencies among the rank and file of all southern rebellions who sought and fought for federal system of government. Their money, military assistance and propaganda had catapulted the guerilla fighters to statesmen. That was why they were jostling to reap what they sowed. Our queue moved in tortuously in  a snail pace. A tall man pushed through the throngs. He was handling out