My Juba Experience
How wonderful to once again see so many of my dearest friends and family. The time I have spent in Juba has been dear to me. Many have reached out to help with my efforts and have made me feel most welcome. To them I say thank you.
However, Juba has developed its own culture, one that may not work very well. First, the people living in our nation’s capital aren’t interested in meeting new people. Their phones ring and if they don’t know the number or if the caller’s name isn’t on their list, they simply ignore it. If the caller calls back, they use a “switch off” that answers the call with the message that the phone has been switched off. The result, new contacts are almost impossible to make. No matter what the caller’s intentions, their plan has nowhere to go. In a new nation such as ours this lack of communication can mean many missed opportunities and failures to take advantage of possibilities. Instead of new ideas being communicated and shared, they stagnate as potential innovators are trapped by unanswered phone calls.
Now, I do understand that many calls are for handouts. There is too much poverty in South Sudan. Of course, if one is wealthy, they don’t want to be bothered by those requests for contributions. Why bother responding to those in need? While most South Sudanese profess Christian faith, they forget what Jesus said, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40). This should not mean that we give without thought or answer every call with our wallets open, but it does mean that we should be thinking how those calls might lead to a better country and might help our people, all our people, rise.
Instead of worrying about others, however, people in Juba spend a lot of time worrying about how they will spend their lunch hour. That has become not a time for making contact with the world but rather for seeing one’s buddies, the same people day after day. Often lunch becomes the end of work as people then go off to enjoy themselves rather than taking care of business. As my cousin said, “The most productive hours in Juba are between 9 and noon. The rest of the day depends on peoples’ desires.”
In a young country, communication is important. We need to work on problems, we need to share awareness, we need to build a sense of unity and of one national culture. Instead, it seems that the people living in Juba are working towards ever greater separation of groups. Unanswered phones, hours spent in pleasure, and an indifference to the needs of others: these are not the building blocks of a better South Sudan.
More positive communication is essential to our national growth.
Deng Mayik Atem
Founder and Ramciel Publisher