Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The dark man cometh

Bashir is coming to Juba today. Bashir, the president of Sudan, focus of a potential ICC indictment and the man whose presence once, in Khartoum, forced me to hide in a construction site for two hours while he toured a new airport terminal (apparently the security people didn’t want him knowing the chaos they caused, so they made all of us hang out behind the barrier).

Now, for obvious reasons, the news of this visit was not made public. Also for obvious reasons, when a man as contentious as Bashir comes the entirety of Juba shuts down. See, this would’ve been a nice thing to know BEFORE I started my morning commute.

I get to the end of the Gudele road, a horrible dusty potholed road that is the first 15-20 minutes of my commute every morning, and find a massive traffic jam. Being on Donk, I’m able to bob and weave my way up to the point where I normally turn (right next to the memorial for the late John Garang, leader of the SPLA rebel movement, in case you were interested) and there are soldiers all along the mouth of the road. Waving big sticks and hitting people. Ok. Not going that way. Carry on to the large, fetid market up and try to turn there. Again with the sticks and the yelling. OK. Carry on up to the Customs roundabout. Ah, looks like I can get through there. Oh crap, no I can’t, man with gun and stick is coming at me at speed screaming angrily in, I think, Dinka.

This went on and on for over an hour. Every turn was met with angry soldiers itching to hit something. I finally managed to weasel my way past one checkpoint and then used my extensive knowledge of back roads gained from riding bodas for a year to sneak past three other checkpoints to eventually get to my office.

No we’re all locked down (and by we I mean everyone), no movement allowed in the entire city. You’ve gotta wonder, if the whole city is essentially put on lockdown when the man comes, what exactly is he coming to see? The progress on the tarmacking?

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