Sunday, May 29, 2011

Jebel Mountain

I've wanted to get into the wild on foot ever since arriving six weeks ago, but opportunities have been limited. On Sunday I am finally able to get in a good hike, to a place on the outskirts of town called Jebel Mountain. It’s actually three distinct, rock-covered hills, and you can easily hike to the top of one of the peaks in about an hour. A colleague and I plan to meet up with some other expats at an outdoor restaurant called Home and Away at 8 a.m. It's a little early for me on a Sunday, especially after staying up late last night while watching Barcelona tear apart Man U in the Champions League Final. However I bite the bullet and get up early, head fuzzier than usual. On our way out, our guard, James, shows us that one of the rabbits had babies recently. He is smiling as he squats over the tiny nursing bunnies in the driveway. “I love animals,” he says, grinning from ear to ear. "Only one did not live.”

We walk to the restaurant, where I'm surprised to find a good sized group of people - about ten altogether -- who are also going on the hike. We order coffee but it never comes, so we decide to leave, it’s getting warmer as the morning unfolds and we don’t want to start too late. A rugged Australian named Phil, who has a spunky puppy with him and a large carabiner strapped to his day pack, offers to transport us all in his Land Cruiser.

“Can we all fit?” someone asks.

“Sure,” says Phil. “It’s a troop transporter!”

All ten of us climb in an especially large Land Cruiser. This one has two long, comfortable benches that face each other in the back and we squeeze eight in the back, two in the front, and the driver. We are just pulling out when Phil’s fiancĂ© asks him if he has the puppy.

He does not. Truck stops abruptly while someone runs into the restaurant to retrieve the puppy, which climbs in the back with us, happily clambering and wriggling over 16 feet, eight laps and sets of shoulders. "She has all the grace of a baby giraffe," says Phil, who found the pup during a Hash race in town. She is narrow, brown and short-haired with a pointy nose, which she lay on my lap during a rare break from her antics.

Phil has hiked Jebel countless times and is a natural guide and leader, so he takes over when we arrive at the base of the hills. He makes sure we are all carrying water and reminds us to be respectful and careful when taking photos. If we don’t stay with the group, we need to pair up – no one walks by themselves. He tells us that we also need to be cautious about which rocks we step on, because local villagers are quarrying them, and some of the larger boulders are in the process of being dislodged and readied for rolling down the mountain. Rock busting is the big business in this area, which is called Rock Village. Villagers climb into the hills and haul down bucket after bucket of rocks. Women sit under home-made shelters at the base of the mountain and use hammers to splinter the rocks into gravel, which is sold and used in roads and construction. It is hard work and as we look up the boulder-strewn hill sides, we can see about a dozen sweating shirtless men of varying ages working at the rocks. There is some smoke as well, and Phil explains that villagers sometimes bring tires up the mountain and set them afire at the base of large boulders to help clear the brush underneath and loosen them.

As we start up, Phil reminds us that these hills were the site of some major battles between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (southern rebels) and the Sudanese military (Sudanese Armed Forces) from the north, and that there is still some unexploded ordnance and/or mines in the area. For that reason, he strongly recommends staying on established paths. A French hiker in our group would later find a large bullet casing.

We start up and a local rock worker tells us we should climb to the right. “They are bringing down a very large rock,” from the direction we are heading, he says. So we switch around to the right. We walk up narrow paths over gray and black rock, and through sometimes waist-high green grass. With the onset of the rains, the landscape is transforming from dry brown to lush green. “By August this grass will be over our heads,” someone says.

We do some mildly tricky climbing in places, up and down a few crevices and broad smooth rock faces, hanging onto tree branches, rock edges and outcroppings, whatever we can find for a hand-hold, but everybody makes it. At one point we rock climb past a dark cave full of small bats but they are sleeping so we don’t disturb them. When they are awakened, they fly out in bunches and bang into you but don’t bite, Phil says; we decide to let them alone. Near the top of the middle peak someone sees a decent-sized black snake slither into a crack in the rocks, but I missed it. Pythons and monkeys once lived up here but they apparently are now gone – probably eaten during the war. Locals like to say a French NGO (non-governmental organization) took all the pythons from Jebel back to France but Phil says he finds that unlikely.

Some fantastic views out over Juba from the peak on a beautiful clear morning, and we can see the Nile from up here. Phil points out where the new U.S. Embassy will be built, on a huge green field not too far from the mountain base. Construction is in the very early stages. Building it will cost in the neighborhood of half a billion dollars, but South Sudan is viewed by the U.S. government as a very important partner in East Africa, not only for its oil but also for strategic/security reasons.

On the trail down we pass a man under a tree butchering something, probably a goat, with a big knife. He smiles and holds up his knife and some glistening entrails as we walk by.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Abyei Situation

The northern army last Saturday invaded a town in South Sudan and commenced an ethnic cleansing campaign that apparently involves encouraging Arab militias to burn and loot the homes of Dinka tribes peoples, pillaging United Nations food warehouses, and driving 70,000 people from their homes at the onset of annual torrential downpours and floods. It’s the start of the rainy season here, and when it rains, it doesn’t sprinkle, each storm is a violent atmospheric eruption. It feels like the house is being assaulted by fire hoses when it starts up. It storms cataclysmically now frequently, often around dusk, turning the streets to mud and mush. I can’t imagine wandering around outside in these rains with no food, no shelter, no place to go.

Some have said that General Bashir, the repressive dictator in Khartoum who has been indicted for genocide in Darfur by the U.N.’s International Criminal Court, seems intent on derailing South Sudan’s independence, which is now less than six weeks away. The town in question is Abyei, and both north and south have accused each other of transgressions there in the six years since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, ending 21 years of civil war. There are a couple of ebbing oil fields and some good pastures in and around Abyei, and the town has some strategic importance as a cross-roads to Darfur out west and to a number of important commercial hubs in the upper parts of South Sudan.

I’ve been interested in the reactions of South Sudanese people to the resurgent conflict in Abyei. Down here in Juba, there is resignation and weary head shaking, but no one I’ve spoken to wants to go to war again, even though thousands of people are being displaced – northern-allied militias are moving in and taking over people’s land and homes in Abyei, apparently, for good. Bashir seems to be viewed as a delusional northern relation who is tilting at windmills. The attitude in Juba is that Bashir and his militias can have Abyei – the South will soon have independence, and will exert control over 80% of all the oil produced in Sudan. Some South Sudanese have pointed out that men of Bashir’s ilk are falling like dominoes. Genocidal heads of state who (allegedly) pilfer billions in national revenue are currently in disfavor.

“Let him have it,” said one South Sudanese colleague of mine, in reference to Abyei. “After independence, Bashir will be removed from his office.”

“People here are done with wars,” said another colleague of mine over lunch. “He thinks he can bring us into war, but there is no interest. People want to have business, go to school. No one wants to go backwards.”

Today the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, addressed the nation about Abyei. “We will not return to the war again,” he said. “This is our policy and we will not waive it.”

He is hoping the United Nations can help. In the meantime, he’s preparing for independence on July 9, when South Sudan will become the world’s newest nation. Trash is starting to disappear from the side of the larger roads in town, and flowers and trees are being planted. The new airport terminals and parking lots are under construction, and new businesses are opening. Things are moving forward, though Abyei looms like a distant thunderhead.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lost Boy's Dream

I am as far north in Southern Sudan as I've yet been. The place is called Aweil, the capital of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. The edge of Southern Darfur is not too far away, a little more to the north and west. Abyei, a disputed border town where army trucks were ambushed yesterday, is about seven hours up the road. I have been bumping around in a Land Cruiser meeting with harvesters and traders of gum acacia, also called gum arabic.

My organization is helping subsistence-level rural harvesters form collectives to pool their product and negotiate better prices with traders. Gum acacia is valuable and useful. It's an edible binder. You can find it in stamps, envelopes, Coca-Cola, M&Ms, gummy bears, edible cake sparkles, makeup, medicine, inks and paints, for starters. Sudan exports more gum acacia than any other country in the world. You can throw a rock in almost any direction here and hit an acacia tree.

It is the end of the day when I return to one of the office units in the compound to boot up my laptop, check email and write up notes. The only other occupant in the air-conditioned room is a quiet young Sudanese man named Santino Madut Akot, also working on a laptop. I met him earlier but didn't have a chance to speak with him. As the windows darkened we put work aside and he sketched a piece of the story of his life, speaking in impeccable English. He does not seem surprised that I am interested in interviewing him. By rights, he should be dead. Santino is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, and he has returned.

The Lost Boys are famous in movies, books and magazines as the most severely war-traumatized children of our generation. Thousands of South Sudanese children were stolen, sold, enslaved, starved, shot, burned, tortured and raped during the atrocities that accompanied the Second Sudanese Civil War that broke out in the early 1980s. Those who escaped, like Santino, left their families and villages behind on foot, hiding in the bushes, driven out by Arab militias on horseback. Santino's village is about 75 km from our office. Arabs came to Marial Bai on horses in the dry seasons in 1985 and 1986, burning houses and crops, and taking cattle and children. In those two years, Santino and his family fled, returning in the rainy seasons when flooding prevented the militias from raiding. 1987 was worse, though. The Misseriya showed up in greater numbers, shooting, burning and destroying everything in their path.

"They took the boys as slaves to tend the cattle, and the girls were taken as concubines," Santino says. Remarkably (to me) there is no anger or emotion in his voice. It happened, there is no questioning or changing it. Still I ask him if, when he was a young child, he wondered why people from the north were killing people from the south. He does not remember thinking about it.

"They wanted to take over the land."

He ran into the bush in 1987, learning later that one of his half-sisters was put inside a tukol and burned to death. Another sister and an older brother were taken north as slaves. Santino joined a large group of children and a handful of adults walking away from the conflict areas. He walked east for three months, drinking water from muddy puddles, eating anything he could find. Sick, starving, around nine years old, he walked all the way to Ethiopia, where after a time, the U.N. helped establish a camp and brought food.

I've always wondered about the Lost Girls. The scanty references I've found online indicate that girls who were not stolen, enslaved or killed during the conflict were assimilated into other families in South Sudan and Ethiopia, whereas the boys were generally expected to fend for themselves or were forcibly conscripted.

Santino spent a couple of years in rough conditions at the refugee camp in Ethiopia until civil war broke out there, too. He walked back west to the border with Sudan, where Sudanese troops refused passage and shot at them. So they walked south to Kenya. Another refugee camp, Kakuma. Nearly 60,000 refugees lived there, including Ethiopians and Somalis. Not much to eat except what the UN handed out. He received a ration of flour to mix with water, some beans, oil and salt, and lived mostly on that for more than a decade, until he heard about the Lost Boys program, organized by the U.S. and the U.N., with help from big NGOs, and applied for it. It was his shot to get out of the camps and start a new life. The best thing about the camp at Kakuma was that the children were required to go to school, where he learned English. His application was selected and he was one of approximately 4,000 Lost Boys eventually airlifted to host communities in the U.S. By then he was in his 20s. He was given a new name, Santino, which he uses now.

Catholic Charities paid four months of rent for him at an apartment in Lincoln, Nebraska, and helped him get Food Stamps. He quickly found a factory job packaging chicken parts for Cook's Chickens in a refrigerated warehouse and began supporting himself. He applied to a community college and was accepted. He worked the graveyard shift wrapping chickens and got home at 4 a.m. to do homework. He heard about a good four-year college called Doane, applied and got in, quit the chicken job and worked part-time as a Dinka-language translator for the courts and social services department while earning a degree in public administration. (There is a large Sudanese diaspora community in Nebraska.) He applied for a job working in South Sudan for the World Food Programme in 2010 and then accepted a position at my company as a projects officer specializing in human resource development. Now he is helping the new Government of South Sudan establish protocols to build a foundation of professional government administrators. He conducts Power Point presentations, works with international consultants to convey best practices in human resources development and capacity building. He deals with computers, the internet and email, spreadsheets, pdf files, flip charts.

Santino says it feels good to be back, working to help his soon-to-be-independent country get a fresh start. "When I left, I left with nothing. And when I came back, I had something." He is married now, supporting a wife in Uganda. He is paying the school fees of the children of several family members whose parents don't have enough money. He is living in a tukol again, with friends.

His stolen sister and brother were recovered with help from a group called Christian Solidarity International, who tracked them down four years after they were taken, and paid ransoms for them. His mother is still alive, living in his home village. Of his six primary siblings, only one died - of an unknown disease, untreatable due to lack of medicine during the war.

His dream now is to start an orphanage. In Aweil, there are many street children - the sons and daughters of the thousands of returnees who have come back to South Sudan from Khartoum and other places in advance of the country's official independence. They get off buses with bundled foam bedding and sheets, furniture and bags of clothes, and park their belongings next to the train tracks waiting for opportunity to arrive.

Santino's voice gets even softer when he talks about the returnee kids he sees running around the dusty town.

"I want them to have a chance, as I had a chance," he said. "It would be a place to live. Attend school. Eat."

He is working on his plan.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Scary Animals in the Dark

I am doing late night laundry, having taken control of my own washing due to problems with well-intentioned but easily confused laundry ladies. It's late, after midnight. The TV in the living room is off; no one is up and about inside the house, except me. I take advantage of the dark in the kitchen to sneak a small chocolate Easter egg from the freezer on my way to the laundry room.

Unbelievable - the washing machine cycle is finally over. Try as I might, I cannot find a cycle that takes less than three hours to complete. I have pressed all the buttons and dials in varying combinations, to no avail, 2.5 hours later the thing is still spinning, rinsing, etc. Maybe it's broken. Anyway it's midnight and I started the laundry at 9 pm. We have no drier, so I venture outside to the clothes lines. (Editor's note: several weeks later I later I would discover a way to put on the washer for just 30 minutes.)

It's dark. I notice for the first time, that at night, our security guard from Warrior Security is joined by an actual soldier with a machine gun. He is sitting in his fatigues in a plastic chair with the gun across his lap, inside the locked, gated yard. The guard and the soldier are surprised to see me emerge from the front door with an armful of wet laundry at midnight. I nod and they wave. I make my way around the corner to a kind of alley between buildings on the compound, to the clothes lines. It's a little darker back here, and loud from the generators roaring, but I'm not worried - there is a guard and a soldier watching over the property. What is there to fear?

I am stretching to hang up some pants and socks when I see numerous black-and-white animals dart underneath me from the grass. They come in low and fast from both sides and in front of me; behind me is a wall. There is nowhere for me to run and they are RIGHT BY MY BARE FEET. I can't grab the clothes line, it is not strong enough to hold my weight. Wild miniature pigs? Large African rats? I see little eyes gleaming in the dim light and almost yell out, begin backing up with wet pants held defensively in front of me when I realize it's just the compound's bunny rabbit family. But it's still a little scary - they're kinda close to my bare feet, hopping about. They do have teeth.

Someone at the house bought rabbits just for fun a while back, and now there are about five or six of them on the grounds. My house mate feeds them kale, leftover carrots etc., but she has been on vacation and I think they thought I was out there to feed them and came running over like a pack of ravenous hyenas. I step warily around them and go back in, waving goodnight to security.

Monday, May 9, 2011

25 Minutes to Bor

Another flight into the field. I am picked up early and head to the airport with four colleagues. This time it's a charter plane and we are able to skirt the terminal and walk straight out onto the tarmac.

"Does anyone know what plane we're looking for?" asks our leader, a senior advisor.

"I think it's got a T on it," someone says. "From the e-mail."

We figure it out quickly, because only a handful of the small planes we are walking toward look like they are preparing to take off - it's a red and white Cessna single-prop with a fuel line attached to one wing. We climb in and I get the seat directly behind the pilot, who materializes suddenly, climbing up a little ladder and putting a leather bag stuffed with bug spray, Marlboros and folded maps next to herself in between the seats.

Some guys finish fueling up the plane, which is tight but comfy, and without fuss, comment or instruction to us of any kind, our lone pilot switches on the engine and pulls out. In fact she has not even shut the door on her side of the cockpit; she is steering with her right hand and hanging onto the door with her left.

We pause to let a big World Food Programme plane launch, and finally she shuts the door.

"Twenty-five minutes to Bor," she says to us, before hitting the accelerator. She sounds German to me, but I learn later that she is a Bulgarian who grew up in Ethiopia.

Bor is in Jonglei State, north of Juba, where my company is being encouraged to expand. It's just a day trip, and I've been told some important government officials will be at a local university to initiate a training in which we're involved. I take a reporter pad and camera.

On the way there we fly over some interesting terrain - savanna and woodland, a lonely mountain, and swamps - big green swamps laced by snaking silver tributaries of the Nile. I look closely but cannot see wildlife in either the woods or the water, though we're not flying very high.

We land in Bor, another dirt airstrip with no actual building. Hop into a Land Cruiser and straight to the South Sudan Hotel. We park under a tree and order coffees, and tea and scrambled eggs. We are early for the big event at the university. Now a group of about six, we discuss land reform in Zimbabwe, the uprising in Yemen, the differences between typhoid and malaria, and order a second helping of some good fresh bread.

Later I attend the event and am impressed by the governor, who is the most important of the VIPs present and who is referred to as His Excellency. I notice that he carefully inspects the label on a soda bottle while some of the other VIPs are speaking. He is a big man and takes his time standing up and greeting us. He is the only person without prepared remarks, and he speaks for nearly 30 minutes, riveting the audience of 50 local government administrators present for training.

He notes that millions of their family members and friends were killed in war so that their people could govern themselves. That South Sudan has needed help from other countries to obtain enough food, recover and rebuild, and will need more help to get organized as a new nation. It is time to repay the world.

 "You have come to get knowledge of a new way of doing things," he says. "The most important element is the human element."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Field Trip

I am flying into a remote place called Wau on my first trip into the field. My company owns a compound north of there, in Kuajok, from which it manages projects in super-rural Warrap State. I am flying on a World Food Programme plane run by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS). At the last minute I am asked to transport a spare part needed to fix a broken generator in Kuajok. The package is not labeled, is in a beat up box with sagging corners and wrapped haphazardly in packing tape. It's little bigger than a shoebox but is very heavy. The tall guards at Juba airport have all kinds of questions for me when it comes out the end of the x-ray machine.
What is this.
A part for a generator.
What part.
I don't know. A spare part.
Take it out.
I fumble with the tape half-heartedly, so the guard yanks some off and pries up one of the box flaps. All we can see inside is grayish powder and silver metal rings resembling handcuffs. I see arrest and interrogation in my future, but the guard shoves the box back and tells me to wrap it better, I can go.
When we land on the dirt airstrip in Wau an hour later, the first thing I see are two crashed passenger jets of unknown origin. Good thing I'm on a UN plane. UNHAS was set up in response to requests from the 370 humanitarian agencies in Sudan for assistance getting around the country. A lot of the WFP flights go to Darfur, out west, though Darfur is not part of South Sudan and few people here talk about the problems there. South Sudan has its own crises, including the brewing fight over a place called Abyei, right on the proposed border between north/south Sudan. Oil and grazing rights are at the heart of the dispute, and there is sporadic skirmishing going on, along with a big military buildup by both sides that threatens to cause war, again. George Clooney is worried about another genocide occuring in/around Abyei, and has a satellite trained on the area.
But Kuajok is safe. The biggest threat there is getting caught in the crossfire of a cattle raid. Cattle rustling is a serious business here, involving gunfights and killings. Today while bumping over dirt roads on my way to observe an ox-plow training for farmers in the middle of nowhere, a group of herders wearing berets march their cattle by us on the road. Young men amid the cows have machine guns slung across their backs, but pay us no mind. People in big white Land Cruisers – the trademark vehicle of relief orgs -  seem to get a free pass. We are ushered through checkpoints without even a peek.
The road is painful. There is not a single smooth patch on the three-hour drive to where we’re going. My guts and brains are scrambled by the incessant jolting and jangling as the truck jumps up and down over bumps. A fellow traveler told me of even worse roads she took on a 12-hour drive farther north. "My arse was burning," she said.
Out the window, the landscape is mostly bone-dry African savanna with mixed woodlands. Red-brown sandy dirt, twisted acacia trees with some palms; green shrubs and small trees I don't recognize. Dried up gullies with small white herons flitting around. The rainy season is almost here but right now the land is parched. Tussocks of blond grass, red and brown rocks, dead trees and hacked off stumps. I see a few mango trees near villages; under one tree, a small kid is shooting at unreachable fruit with a slingshot made from a flip flop.
There is plenty of wood out here, and people use it to build their tukuls – the traditional small Sudanese homes, cylindrical in shape, with wood frames and walls of smooth gray mud, topped with yellow thatched cone roofs. A tukul costs about 2,000 Sudanese pounds to build if you’re not producing all the materials yourself, so you need a little income to build one. Out here, cut tree poles, sacks of homemade charcoal and bundled thatch appear to be the main goods for sale, though we drive through some scruffy village markets, where canned items, sodas and sacks of grain are available. Diesel fuel varying in color from brown to yellow is sold in re-used water bottles, sitting on tables in the sun.
Women are walking along the long road carrying jerrycans of water and other things on their heads. Goats and cattle abound, many untended. Men aren't carrying much except herding sticks or spears. Men and boys stop when they hear us coming, and hold their hands out, looking for a ride but the women stoically plod on. My driver, who doesn’t like to talk, pretends not to see them.
Toward the end of our trip I see a boy who can’t be older than four, walking alone through the scrub. He is wearing a ratty t-shirt with a portrait of Obama on it, and no pants. He stops to watch us drive by, but doesn't wave.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The White Nile


We are jouncing toward the White Nile river in a Land Cruiser, entering a part of the city that is new to me. I have not yet seen the river, arguably the most famous in the world, up there with the Amazon, the Euphrates. What else is in its league - the Ganges, the Yangtze, the Danube? Anyway I'm excited. Most famous or not, it is definitely the world's longest, at 4,130 miles, and it flows northward right through Juba up to Khartoum, then through Egypt and out to the Mediterranean. I've been told there are some nice resorts on the river banks, so I'm surprised when we turn down a dusty dirt road into a run-down area. Goats galore. Soon I can see the tops of huge dark-green trees clustering together, and I know we are getting close to the river. First we drive through the poorest-looking place I have seen in my first few weeks here.

Here, homes are built from sticks, scraps of plastic bags, cardboard, newspapers and bed sheets. I see some shredded UN-issued blue tarps used as roofs. Most of the places are crooked stick-built lean-tos. There are small cookfires, discarded tires and car parts, trash piles, thousands of flattened water bottles and other debris, the ubiquitous yellow jerrycans for collecting water. Naked dirt-covered children. A lady has spread some things out for sale - I can't quite see what but it looks like a half-dozen cans of something. We drive past a tiny boy wandering naked with tears streaking his dusty face. He could be hungry, lost - or it could be that the two older children nearby won't let him play with them. I see my first herd of cattle, driven by a man holding a stick toward the river. Almost all of the cattle have magnificent long curving horns. There is no factory farming around here, so the horns are left alone. Cattle are a food source but are chiefly important as currency and are highly prized.

Our destination is the Oasis Resort. We get through the shanty town and are there. Past security and some thatch-roofed bars, down to a patio with umbrellaed dining tables, and there is the legendary river. Gray-brown water flows strongly past us occasionally carrying broken tree branches. It is a long way to the lush banks on the other side, the east side of the river - a couple of football fields wide at least. We are beneath a canopy of the tallest mango trees I have ever seen. The river bank on this side is lined with huge mango trees and we can smell the tangy rot of fallen fruit in the knotted roots around us. These mangoes are small, no bigger than tennis balls. I can see bunches of them dangling from long stems 200 feet above us.

I watch closely for crocs but my companions say this part of the river is too busy for them. The water is also too murky to see fish, though they are there. I ate fried Nile perch recently at a good South Sudanese restaurant called Mama Zara in the center of town. Here, I order goat masala biryani with butter naan and walk down to the end of the patio. I see the rusted hull of an enormous wrecked barge sticking up at a 45-degree angle from a small island in the river, but few other boats. Upstream, I can see a little muddy beach. Locals are bathing, doing their laundry, filling up jerrycans. Kids are playing, splashing, running around in the water. Someone is washing a motorcycle and a truck, which have been driven into the water. People have spread laundry nearby to dry on rocks and bushes.

Hundreds of miles north, in Khartoum, the White Nile is joined by its largest tributary, the Blue Nile, whose source is in Ethiopia. The White Nile gets its name from its habit of flooding and filling with silts at certain times of year, which it deposits during overflows, enriching the soil and making it productive for growing. The area near the river seems a perfect spot for a permaculture project. Plenty of good fertilizer from cattle and goats; tall mature fruit trees and smaller short-lived trees (papayas); abundant water; people with not enough to eat but some knowledge of subsistence farming. Maize and rice can grow here.

Another Westerner with an overly simplified view of things? But weirder ideas for advancement are under consideration - like redesigning South Sudan's cities into animal shapes. Juba would be rebuilt in the shape of a rhinoceros, with its major thoroughfare constituting the rhino's horn. The city of Wau would have a giraffe template, and so on. Food for thought.