By Roba Gibia
March 1, 2009 – During my stay in Juba, I managed to share thoughts with Jubans and talked with some women who are working with one of the hotels as cleaners. While I was walking around, I heard them talking that the workforce in Juba has been dominated by foreigners. And one of the workers was bitter and blamed the high living condition and commodity prices in Juba on the foreign products being brought from neighboring countries. She said that ten Sudanese pounds (USD 5.00) is not even enough to feed a small family composed of three or four for one meal a day. She continued saying that even by brewing local alcoholic it will not support the family, because it is being consumed on credit basis and as a woman if you continue to ask for the money, you are considered unkind woman and you will be deserted by your own regularly clients. Thus, in my view, the only option to reduce food commodity prices in Juba and South Sudan as whole is that, we have to visualize things responsibly and how we anticipate south to look tomorrow, by depending on imported agricultural products, while south has got plenty of fertile land or through dependence on our own agricultural products as way forward for self-reliance!
The major problem in Juba is the issue of sanitation and clean drinking water, even the so-called treated water is not safe for drinking except bore wells water. The river point at Juba is the main source of contamination, because waste water is being cast into the river beside the human excretion washed by rain into the river, makes Juba River stinky and polluted. Therefore, those who can afford are depending on imported Ugandan Rwenzori water. Despite the fact that there is now South Sudan’s Aqua’na water which was officially launched by GoSS President last year. But it is incredible that the GoSS ministries and Parliament Members dislike the Aqua’na water except Rwenzori. Here, one wonders why we do not want to promote our own products but rather stick to the foreign products! While there are some hotels in Juba owned by true sons of South are trying hard to promote South Sudan’s product, Aqua’na. I know South Sudan is enticing and free market which GoSS has no hand in its price control. But it is outrageous to note that GoSS officials prefer to have deals and conclude contracts with foreign hotels because of under table, and are not supporting and promoting their own national hotels. Support, encourage and strengthen your own South Sudanese hotels and products, because the money is going to remain in south. Most of hotels in Juba and South Sudan are not concrete buildings but pre-fabricated (pre-fab) buildings, and it is for our own interest to conclude deals/contracts with our own national hotels to change the era of pre-fabricated buildings to the concrete buildings. Thus, one wonders, where is our contribution to the construction of south, and where is our patriotism, Southernism and why are we selling south just for the sake of self enrichment!
The GoSS is depending entirely on the oil revenue and has left non-oil revenue such as taxes and customs duties loose for individuals enrichment. There are hundreds of vehicles and goods entering south daily but where were their custom duties’ money going? Every foreigner entering south has to register and pay one hundred fifty Sudanese pounds (USD 68.20), imagine how many foreigners entering south monthly. At the airport when leaving Juba, you have to pay airport service charges of thirty-five Sudanese pounds (USD16.00) without proper receipt, which gives no room for auditing and accountability. Besides that I was surprised when I was told at Juba airport that I am leaving country without making visa, I said, I am a Sudanese how can I make visa to leave my country except to the foreign country where I am heading to, the officer told me that everyone is doing that. Thus, I was told to photocopy my passport on a photocopying machine beside the officer, which costs six Sudanese pounds (USD 2.73) just for three papers. Then, I was supposed to pay eighty-five Sudanese pounds (USD 38.64) for the exit visa, but the officer looked at me and said yaba (elderly person) you will pay it next time. Thus, I do not know as how system is being implemented in Juba and South Sudan as whole, and I wonder whether this is ratified and legal system, no one knows.
The author is a Sudan Tribune journalist he can be reached at [email protected]