On some days it seems as though Juba, the capital of South Sudan, is steadily climbing the road to stability as it arises from 20 years of civil war. High-rise buildings are being constructed, banks are being opened and people are going about their daily business. At other times, spats of violence call in to question whether the country really is free from war. As an organisation committed to seeing the country change, AID must navigate all of these signs and incidents to discern what is best for long term development.
Recent events have again called for slight changes in AID’s projects.
Following weeks of a tense calm in Juba, shots were fired in the main military barracks on the 5th March, possibly due to a disagreement about salaries. The next day, 6th March, a UN truck was seized by SPLA forces. The truck was labelled ‘’general goods’’ but was found to contain weapons. Though the UN has said that the weapons were going to support peace-keeping efforts and that there had been a labelling error, the incident has sparked distrust of the UN among the Sudanese. The Juba Government and many locals now accuse the UN of supporting rebels.
The Chief of UNMISS (The United Nations Mission in South Sudan) has recently reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to South Sudan saying: “the road towards reconciliation and a better future for South Sudan will be long and arduous. The UN has been supporting the youngest country in the world since its first day of independence, and we will be there every step of the way, impartial, unwavering and committed to the future of this sovereign nation.”
From AID’s perspective, there are many encouraging signs of development even amidst the conflict. Last week, our local staff team held a meeting with community leaders who are supportive of implementing an AID sanitation programme in their district. Reports from our Manna Microfinance staff say that groups continue to meet, pray and run their businesses. Our clients say that they have found that business has slowed due to recent conflict but they continue to work and make repayments. Microfinance experts The Bridge Foundation International, who run our Manna Microfinance project on the ground, have been surprised by the continuing consistently of repayments during the unrest. In other countries where this has happened, loan repayments have fallen away – or even stopped altogether.