Diary of an Adventure

Nairobi Adventure

Airport in Juba packed with well dressed families waiting for the flight to Khartoum. Surrounded by bags of toys, food, and flat screen TV’s. Not much confidence being expressed in the politicians ability to sort out the mess that is South Sudan.

I felt enormously relieved to be on the flight. The weight of a zillion years left behind at the bottom of the staircase.

For all that, there is something unreal about sitting next to the swimming pool in Nairobi. With the sound of falling water, a glass of red wine that tastes excellent. My hands clean. The table free of dust and the heady scent of golden shower filling the air.

I feel totally disconnected with the reality of Juba, with its unnerving threat that seems to permeate the pores of our lives there. Visible, but unavoidable. This while dealing with those who aren’t there. Or haven’t been there. That seem drawn to it. Hard to explain. Impossible to understand.

I know this is what we do. It defies logic.

The United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON), is a massive campus of trees, parks, buildings and perfect people. Intoxicating in its perfection, the line of flags that funnel a cavalcade of diplomats to the entrance. Chocolate box perfect. The cafe’, its elegance matched by the presentation of my cappuccino. The art on the walls, no less powerful than a Diego mural, the idealism of the UN.

Days filled with meetings. Discussions. Plans made. Discarded. Of importance, time spent with South Sudan staff who are currently working from Nairobi.

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Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Eddie’s Innovation Dinner Challenge was to use an induction pan that works, with a pot (that doesn’t work on the induction hob) inside it to cook the pasta sauce.

We are waiting for confirmation of the ceasefire between anti and pro government forces, while there are reports that the pro-government forces have retaken Bor, assisted by Ugandan forces. In Juba, shooting was reported from High Malakal, with everything calm.

A painting of huts in South Sudan taking shape on the easel that reminds me of Monet’s haystacks. It started out as huts against the skyline. Empty of life. The earth scorched by the sun. Echoing the hopeless consequence of war. Watching the sunrise, full of promise, drums and singing from where the IDP’s are corralled, the painting took on a different life.

Rachael did our Innovation Dinner Challenge, importing help, and changing location to UNMISS. They prepared a stir-fry, and casserole full of flavour, with the biggest salad I have seen in Juba.

For the first time in ages I’m aware of dogs barking and howling as day breaks over Juba Town. It’s still dark, but birds are waking and there are roosters screeching.

Juba remains calm, with Upper Nile tense as youth militia and anti-government forces reportedly move north from Malakal where fighting is taking place within Malakal town.
Renk and Malut remain in government hands.

Went for my jog on a warm evening. My Achilles very unhappy. Not impressed.

Heightened tension towards the UN following the news briefing by the President, repeated on national TV

Low level harassment continues on our way through to the office. No drama, but a tad uncomfortable. The violence of soldiers against male civilians continues, which is hard to understand, with sticks used to cane pedestrians. Others pulled into hollows next to the road for search and interrogation. Fear reaction to the presence of the suspected, but invisible, rebel forces??

Around the streets of Juba Town, prisoners in white overalls collect litter, while truck loads of new recruits head towards the main military camp.

A bunch of guys staying in the house as we are still short on accommodation options. We did find it amusing that the subject of scheduling the washing machine and the merits of not needing to iron clothing if put on the correct spin cycle, taking it out when its damp an hanging it correctly, was such a big part of our conversation.

Messing About with Paint

Huts

Oil on Canvas 40cmx30cm

A painting of huts on the easel that reminds me of Monet’s haystacks.

It started out as huts against the skyline. Empty of life. The earth scorched by the sun. Echoing the hopeless consequence of war.

Watching the sunrise, full of promise, drums and singing from where the IDP’s are corralled, the painting took on a different life.

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Detail

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Eddie’s innovation dinner was to use an induction pan that works, with a pot (that doesn’t work on the induction hob) inside it to cook the pasta sauce.

We are waiting for confirmation of the ceasefire between anti and pro government forces, while there are reports that the pro-government forces have retaken Bor, assisted by Ugandan forces. In Juba, shooting was reported from High Malakal, with everything calm.

On the streets of Juba Town rubbish was being collected, and sweepers were out cleaning the sand from the roadside.

A painting of huts taking shape on the easel that reminds me of Monet’s haystacks.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Watched over by the moon, it was a cool morning for my jog. I came across a large puff adder that had been run over on the road confirming my caution about not going out in the dark.

Bunches of meetings as per normal on a Friday and a zillion small bits that have kept me out of mischief.

Juba remains quiet, with ongoing clashes on Juba-Yei road. Continued reports of defections, and road banditry. Single incidents resulting from indiscipline.

President Kiir addressed the media stating that they expect an end to hostilities to be imminent. Let’s hope.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Security in Juba Town remains quiet with sporadic shooting, attributed to drunkenness.

The conflict areas around Malakal, Bhor and Bentiu haven’t changed significantly and reportedly, there is additional support for the Pro-government forces from Uganda. This may be a reflection of the position stated to the media by the lead negotiator that although the release of political detainees remains a key issue that has still to be resolved, there are signs of a truce.

It seems as though taxis have been released from some holding pen, flooding the streets of Juba Town with their unpredictable, chaos. Mixed with aggressive 4×4’s, laden with soldiers, wielding weapons, racing down the centre of the road, being on the road has again become the most dangerous place to be.

UN House in lockdown, with IDP’s being rushed through the gates as they are opened for us to enter.

Dust driving me nuts.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Things in Juba Town today are peaceful, if tense. Mostly because the information we are getting doesn’t tell us what is actually going on. We know that there are anti-gov forces to the south of Juba and we see more evidence of tanks moving in that direction, but the reports from people coming back to Juba from Uganda say the roads are quiet with only the occasional sighting of troop movements.

Our days are filled with doing everything possible to normalize the situation for the national staff and getting programs going again, with due consideration for the volatile security situation. We are using the time to improve our planning to ensure that we are able to achieve as much as possible in the shortest timeframe. Importantly, our donors have remained supportive, despite the chaos.

Small child herding cattle along the main road unconcerned about the resulting traffic snarl.

Was hoping to head out for a jog, but the heat is brutal.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Tonight Juba is quiet, with kids swimming in the rivers and playing amongst the rubbish, and goats, that is piling up on the streets. Apparently, the shooting in Juba last night was due to soldiers being drunk on duty, and criminal elements in the early hours of this morning. There was a short burst of fire at around 8am.

Fierce fighting is going on in Malakal as Anti-Government forces try and take the town with the focus on disrupting oil supplies. The senseless death of over 200 people when their ferry capsized in trying to flee across the Nile, a barometer of how little the people of South Sudan are considered by the combatants.

South of Juba, an SPLA General was killed in an ambush, and there were further clashes north of Juba with casualties.

We are, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and UNESCO, working on the design of the National Archive building in Juba, a project supported by the Embassy of Norway. This building is to be the first national level culture institution to be constructed. Despite the current situation, the design process is still ongoing, and all partners remain strongly committed to the project. The team recently submitted a 90% complete version of the detailed design drawings and is now working closely with the government on the final stages of the task. The archive building plays an important symbolic role in the establishment of the state and nation, which is one of the main reasons why everybody involved considers it so important to continue this project in light of the current crisis.

The link to the most recent pictures on Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.243688512467435.1073741831.186546301514990&type=1

Sher, Rachael and Simon have moved into the UNDP housing which means I have the house back to myself. The linen has been washed and dried, without too much of the dust that is driving me nuts, settling in stripes.

Eddie and I did an Innovation Dinner Challenge with bougette (yes Juba Town is improving) , pâté and an excellent pecorino from the Vineyards.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

While there are ongoing reports of clashes between Pro and Anti-Government forces south of Juba, and intense fighting around Bhor, life in Juba Town is increasingly normal. School children in school uniform in the streets, more shops are open and the roadside restaurants are functioning. Drumming from traditional ceremonies can be heard in the evening, always a good indication.

On the route to UN House, the road is scarred by the passing of tanks and our drive back to the residences was tense with security alerts crackling through the radio. The UNMISS patrol a welcome site as we made our way slowly along the back roads.

At UN House, a bunch of kids have armed themselves with wheelbarrows and are providing a carrying service for the IDP’s as they return from markets, and for new arrivals.

Sher has arrived with a new protection cover for my iPhone. Rugged, neon green.