musings on travel, international living, development aid, politics, turkey (the country more than the meat) and anything else that comes to mind...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The capital moving saga continues in South Sudan

For those that are unaware, the Government of South Sudan recently resolved to move the capital city from Juba to a place in the middle of... well... nowhere called Ramciel. There is much speculation as to the motives for the move and, to try and remain as objective as possible, I won't go there.

There are plenty of examples of newly formed countries (or overflowing ones like Nigeria) successfully moving the capital. It's a statement, an emphatic proclamation of independence. I get that. Turkey did it after the fall of the Ottoman Empire/end of the WW I, moving from the historical capital of Constantinople/Istanbul to Ankara. No problemo in my book... in theory.

The official reason (I dare say the main one of many) for the move of the South Sudanese capital is that access to land in and around Juba is becoming increasingly difficult. The tribal owners of the land are frequently not willing to provide land (even by lease) to the government, other citizens, businesses, NGOs, etc., essentially stifling the physical expansion of a city that must be on track to be the fastest developing place in Africa. Without proper access to land there is literally no where to go.

Solution? Move the capital to a place where there is more available land. Never mind the fact that Ramciel, the anointed spot, is today essentially pasture without any existing infrastructure, little access to water, soil that is (according to an engineer friend) not conducive to large-scale construction, etc. etc. etc. Never mind that South Sudan has a million other things (border conflict with Sudan, a large food insecure population, 70% annual inflation, the list goes on and on and on) to worry about. Never mind all that. Access to land is a key issue and without it Juba (with it's already skyrocketing real estate prices) will indeed suffocate.

In other words, while I didn't necessarily agree with the decision, at least I could understand it from the land access point of view. Until now.

PaanLuel Wël, one of South Sudan's most prolific bloggers, posted this open letter to the President of South Sudan. The letter (which should also be viewed with an air of suspicion if not simply caution) essentially says that the Aliab-Dinka tribe - owners of the land around Ramciel and represented in the letter by their diaspora community - were not consulted before the decision was made to move the capital there. Translation: there very well might be similar land disputes to those occurring in Juba today when/if the capital moves.
Deep sigh...