Juba officials scramble for luxuries as nation wallows in poverty

Posted: February 29, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan
Tags: , , , , ,

Juba officials scramble for luxuries as nation wallows in poverty

By CHARLES OMONDI, in Juba

FEB. 16/2012, SSN; Are Southern Sudanese Government officials trying to make up for lost time? Top of the range four-wheel drive vehicles, including the fuel-guzzler Hummer, are the only cars they are driven in.

Their offices are air-conditioned and flashy, with wall-to-wall carpets. The men prefer neatly cut and well-pressed suits of the designer type, with shoes to match.

I’ve little doubt that like their counterparts elsewhere in Africa, they live in huge houses on big compounds, fly outside their country a lot and eat choice food unavailable to rest of the Southern Sudanese.

Who could be footing the bill for this opulence while ignoring the squalor, all too visible in the general neighborhood?

Could it be the African malaise of the elites, their relatives and cronies misallocating resources to finance the luxuries of a select few at the expense of the suffering majority?

I have no qualms about Cabinet ministers, their assistants, permanent secretaries, department directors and other top government officials being accorded the perks befitting their status, but for heaven’s sake, can this be done in relation to the size of the wealth generated? Isn’t that the only way these privileged lot can ensure their lifestyles are sustainable?

Liberation fruits
A popular theory has it that the big vehicles are the only ones that can tackle the rough terrain beyond the regional capital Juba. And, as you know, leaders need to keep in touch with the people and inspect development projects in far flung corners of the country from time to time.
If that were the case, wouldn’t it make more sense investing in the roads to be used by all over a long time, rather than focus on the comfort of a handful?

How about the expansive and posh offices, with wall-to-wall carpeting, imported (from outside Africa) leather seats, and of course other fine imported office equipment?

Wouldn’t some semblance of modesty do while ensuring efficiency in service delivery?

And the well cut and pressed designer suits and imported shoes, in an environment where diurnal temperatures can hit 40 degrees Celsius?

Could it be that these government bureaucrats are so well remunerated? If so, where is the money coming from when so much poverty is apparent?

Huge parts of Juba, for instance, look no better than a temporary settlement for nomads in pursuit of pastures for their livestock. Thousands of Southern Sudanese are homeless, having only returned to the war-ravaged region from exile or from Khartoum where they did no more than struggle to keep body and soul together.

Can’t they be given a share of the liberation fruits they and their kith and kin have sacrificed so much for?

There can be no justification for the top leadership trying to make up for the lost time. Like was the case with liberation struggles in other parts of Africa, most of those in top leadership never bore the brunt of the war.

They either lived in luxury in other capitals during the war period or were the beneficiaries of lucrative scholarships that equipped them with various skills in preparation for the takeover from the oppressors.

Their children, by extension, benefitted immensely as others either paid with their lives or were perpetually marginalized.

The inequality gap is certainly taking root in Southern Sudan even as the masses celebrate the prospects of an independent state from the North.

This must be arrested for the sake of social harmony and sustainable development.

Posted Tuesday, January 11 2011, Africa Review, Nairobi, Kenya

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