Juba, Southern Sudan. The lives of the ordinary people
Juba is an interesting place; on one hand it looks like an impoverished town, on the other hand, it is a booming town with endless business opportunities. Yesterday, I took the time to walk around KonyoKonyo open air Market; the largest in Juba. I was amazed at the level of business activity in the market. Ordinary Sudanese where going about their business while the politicians continue to wrangle over the future of the country. People are becoming creative about jobs. At one station full of many mini vans (the only transport in Juba for ordinary people), I saw some teenage boys who where helping the taxi drivers to fill their buses quickly by calling on passengers to come and take this bus. At some point they were literally grabbing people and pull them in to the taxi bus. The fare is about half one dollar or a dollar depending on the distance. Each bus carries about 15 people. Once the bus was full, the boys were given the equivalent of two quarters for helping call customers.
While I was riding in one of those mini buses, I saw another boy who volunteered to drain the water away from the road to provide safe passage for cars and people. Drivers were thankful for his service so they would stop to thank him by giving him one Sudanese Pound equivalent to two quarters. At the next stop, I was taken aback by the fact that two military personnel in full gear where boarding the bus with their guns together with civilians and no one seemed scared as everyone is familiar with guns. Another boy was driving his motor cycle and hit our bus slightly and sped away hurriedly to avoid being moped by angry passengers. This reminded me of my ride on Thursday from Nairobi City to the airport. I saw a tanker collided with a fourteen-seat passenger bus and no one was hurt. The passengers however were so angry at the tanker driver and the ydragged him out of his tanker and started beating him. It is the old African way of getting your justice right at the scene. The passengers in our bus however did not beat the poor boy; instead, they’re throwing all kinds of words that described the stupidity and rigidity of this new generation of young Sudanese.
While I was moving around the Market I saw locally made bed frames and I decided to buy one for my sister in law. With only this one transaction, I saw three different people getting jobs. One boy was told to unscrew the bed frames to make it easy to carry and he got paid 3 Sudanese Pounds or a dollar and half. The bed was heavy to carry so we hired another guy to carry it to the bus station about 300 yards, and he got paid another three pounds. Finally, we paid about $ 5 to the bus driver to carry the bed to the final destination.
The ordinary Sudanese are trying to make a living and they are not complaining as they look for any possible opportunity. Before boarding our bus I was just looking around and I saw three business guys selling juices made fresh and were being preserved in a coolant. Another guy was trying to sell me a tooth brush made from a local tree. Three other men were being hired to carry bags of sorghum in their wheelbarrows. At the vegetable section, I saw women selling bananas, cassavas, yams sweet potatoes, mangoes and oranges. Other women were selling pre-owned clothes. The market was kind of segregated along the gender line sbut both men and women were all engaged in some sort of business activity.
This story is pertinent to Juba town but the same story cannot be said about rural towns like Minkamman where opportunities like this do not exist. Part of SUDEF's vision is to bring similar opportunities to ordinary Sudanese across Southern Sudan. The ability of people to engage in business activities provide the best hope to ending poverty and allowing the people to make choices driven by the market and not the goodwill of someone who may decide to give you a handout or not. People are trying to get out of poverty, the only enemy for most ordinary people is the luck of opportunity. Ordinary Sudanese people are industrious and when given the opportunity, they can make their lives better. Please join us in making this happen. www.sudef. org
Awolich de Nyuat