RUMBEK – EXCERPT FROM MY SOUTHERN SUDAN DIARY


SPLA

  

More of Rumbek excerpt – It seems that my readers hit a lot on the Southern Sudan stories.  Well, let me give you another one. I wrote about 125 pages of diary during my last six weeks in Rumbek. I have more notes in flash disks, handwritten and whatever.

 Monday 8 September 2008

 Rumbek is at a standstill, a massive amount of Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers with Kalashnikov are positioned on the main road, outside our gate, each carries a long stick freshly cut from nearby trees and cleaned from their leaves.

The soldiers do not allow traffic to pass and they harshly instruct locals walking along to go back to their house.

An armed man, passing by on a motorcycle, calls my name shouting for me to go back behind Palmtree hotel’s gate.

The SPLA is disarming the population and all seems relatively safe. They are going from house to house searching for weapons. The situation is expected to go back to normal around noon.

The soldiers severely beat up a UN bus driver.  He is shuttling UN local staff and insist on going back to his headquarter.
Large amount of UN peacekeepers in full uniforms are gathering in front of our compound where the incident occurred.
The crowd of Peacekeepers and UN staff dissipates quickly upon taking away the injured bus driver, leaving the SPLA soldiers patrolling the road.

Next morning

The man on the motorbike who warned me yesterday to go back inside Palmtree’s gate is sitting at the dining hall together with four high ranked military and asks me what I was doing outside.
“I was curious”
“You are looking for trouble” replies one of the military men without looking at me.
I think what the big deal is, I was not the only onlooker and their action is an open secret.

One of our long time guest is having a late lunch with a girl wearing a thick green sweater.
That’s a strange fashion statement. Who wears thick sweaters in Southern Sudan’s heat?
I pass close to their table and no doubt! She is a new hooker in town as I have never seen her before. She must be in her early twenties but looks much older.  Her trade shows no mercy on her body and I seriously hope the man uses CD.  The Kenyans called condoms CDs.

Prostitutes are looking for greener pastures in Southern Sudan and I am sure that in a couple of years there will be a surge of AIDS in the big towns such as Juba, Rumbek and Wau.
Southern Sudanese men hardly practice safe sex, they don’t like condoms and, unless it is free, it is not a shopping priority when you are poor.
Women here are mere convenience and rape is common among couples. At night from the tukuls (local huts), you can hear screams of women being raped by their husband.
An SPLA army captain told me that “once in a while, you have to give a beating to your wife so she knows who is the boss even if she does not do anything wrong.”
I even heard a Dinka groups going to Nairobi to beat a family members’ wife who got out-of-order.

I walk towards the garden and the gardener is harvesting huge tomatoes. It warms my heart to see hundreds red tomatoes, they are like a treasure.
He picks one from the bush and gives it to me.  It is big and does not fit my hands.  The tomato is so beautiful that I admire it like a piece of art.

Dinka like to raise cattle mainly as dowry for marriage but they seldom cultivate, if we can grow vegetables in such a lousy soil they can do the same.  You need patience and the cows can give the manure.

A convoy of three vehicles arrives.  Major General James is back with an escort of twenty-five men in combat gears and fully armed. While welcoming him I look at his tribal raised pockmarks covering almost his entire face, from far it looks like a severe case of chicken pox, I think he is a Nuer.

He is the one in charge of disarming the local population.  The word in Rumbek is that the exercise was a fiasco, at least a minimum of seven civilians killed and many more are in the hospital due to severe beatings.

His men looted houses of money and then went in a town rampage, robbing shops of alcohol, food and more money. It was a total mayhem.

The UN closed all their offices and since yesterday imposed an all day curfew on all their staff.

 Patrick-Bernard

From Human Rights Exposed

Manyang Mayom (Sudan) is a correspondent for the Sudan Tribune, the Khartoum Monitor, and the Gurtong peace media project based in Rumbek, Southern Sudan. He has been beaten and arrested while investigating sensitive stories. In 2008, security forces beat him badly while he was reporting a story about a civilian disarmament campaign in Lakes state. He has also faced harassment and intimidation for reporting on abuses by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the police, the government’s crackdown on women and girls for wearing trousers, and the detention of youth in militia prisons.

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