My encounter with itinerant black market dollar dealers in Jubatown

Posted: July 2, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Economy, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Ustaz Abraham Mabior Rioc, Juba, South Sudan

politics of general in south sudan

Political cartoon by Ajith Isaiah Majok

July 2, 2017 (SSB) — In the world over, the issue of black market business and transactions of vital commodities remains at stake with dollars and fuel dealings is protected by law of the respective countries. However, in South Sudan for instance, the issue of dollars and fuel dealings have become the order of the day among the ordinary citizens while the rule of law is watching with its hands folded behind.

From the economic point of view, the matter of selling dollars in the black market by some people who have resorted to that petty business remains an outstanding issue of concern which seems to be a real threat to national economy. What makes an individual to wonder is the nature of the cheating being involved with cunning people victimizing the innocent ones. I always hear people talking of dollars exchange rate in the black market and the cheating cases which is complex in Juba and its suburban areas.

Of course, I have not paid earnest attention to those dollars’ episodes and incidences happening on daily basis despite the economic hardships our country is undergoing. Although, some people enjoy the dirty transactions, the fact remains so painful to me and other fellow South Sudanese who have South Sudan at their hearts.

Since the dealing of dollars is only practiced to those who access them, I have not been bothered to say even a least. What makes me wonder sometimes is the fact that: where do these people (Black market Dollar Dealers) get the dollars from?  Is it because they are given to them by their close relatives who are working in the government or with Non-government organizations (NGOs), or is it because they have chosen that dirty job to commit some of their meagre resources in an effort for them to earn a living?

Nevertheless, up to this point in time I have no reliable information at hand where these people access the scarce dollars.

Back to my point of writing this piece of article, I intend to tell what I encountered few days ago with the black market dollars’ dealers in Juba town. As a matter of fact, it was on the fine morning of Friday, June 16th, 2017, when one of my trainees called me from outside the country and sent me a hundred dollars. When I received the call I wondered who the guy was. Of course, the guy was one of those I used to advise whenever the training became tough and tougher.

I presume that the guy captured my personality among other instructors whom we were doing the job together during the course of discharging our professional duties sometime back. Nonetheless, within a short time of exchanging our salutations, I recognized the guy and even the black days we encountered together as the training was becoming tougher and was progressing well at the same time.

After few minutes of our cordial conversation, he asked me the names I use in the official documents. Then I felt a little of reservation why the guy wanted the names that appear in my official documents. Nevertheless, he assured me that he wanted to send me something using the names my national Identification bears. Without wasting time, I straightway gave him all my four names while signaling an excitement of expecting something in cash.

After few hours, the guy called me back and told me that I should go to a certain bank to collect one hundred US Dollars (100 USD) so as to help myself at that particular time. With that kindness my colleague had shown me at this very critical time when I was really in need. I later realized that a colleague indeed is a colleague that stands with you at all times and vice versa.

After receiving the message, I started consulting the rate of the dollars in the black market by calling few of my colleagues but they told me that it was 15,000 SSP. Though I was cognizant of the fact that black market is illegal and the right places to change your money are the official forex banks, I resorted to the black market since its rate is higher than the rate of the central Bank or other forex banks.

However, with my conversation with my colleagues, I decided myself to go to customs and Juba main markets to inquire about the current rate. After having thoroughly inquired about the exact rate of the day, I then proceeded to the said bank to collect my hundred dollars to be exchanged, but the bank was not working on that very day. So, I left home with mixed reactions as tomorrow seems to be like one week and at the same time thinking of the constant rise and fall of the dollar rates in the black market may affect me in one way of the other.

This is because the other quarters of my heart was telling me that in case the rate drops at night to be less than what I expected, then it would definitely be a great loss since the basic commodities in the market never come down with the fall of dollar rates. So, I spent the night with those reservations of mixed feelings of the day.

In the following day early in the morning, I was the fast person to wake up and brush my teeth and finally set to the market to see the dollar rate of the day and exchange it with South Sudan Pounds. I removed the money from where I hid it and put it in the back pocket of the pair of trousers I was putting on and buttoned it properly.

However, after I had thoroughly checked the pocket whether it had a hole or not, I buttoned the pocket properly and confidently. In fact, I was very cautious wherever I went and I kept on checking the button of the pocket to make sure that my one hundred American Dollars (100 USD) is in the safe place.

After I had systematically queried about the rate of the dollars in Customs market I was not convinced. So, I proceeded to Juba town to exchange this attractive and convincing one hundred American Dollars. Conversely, I did not bother to use the public means of transport since they are the main places where thieves and pocket searchers are found.

I was actually mindful of the high rate of pocket searchers who steal people’ s money and phones here in Juba and this made me to keep checking on my pockets every now and then to avoid being a victim of the day.

Indeed, I finally arrived to Juba town after two hours of walking on foot from customs and I immediately started inquiring about the rate from these boys who sell a heap of dollars and Sound Sudanese Pounds on the roadsides. When I came, these discerning boys were in their hundreds and were looking vigilantly with anticipation to trap and cheat any person who might fall on their tracks.

As far as their negative behaviors are concerned, I was very careful of their negative manners as I do hear from other people who had encountered the same experience. So, I had promised myself that I should not cheat anyone and at the same time should not be cheated. I knew from the Bible teaching that cheating is a sin in its entirety although it is taken for granted here in South Sudan as an expertise an individual poses at the expenses of the victims.

Further, in the process of deciding who I should approach, I resolved to come close to the two boys who were sitting under their dirty and torn umbrella and were looking very innocent, yet in the real sense, they were not innocent. The rate they told me was 16,000 SSP unlike the real rate which was 15,000 SSP, which was a suggestive of double-dealing exchange rate.

I set down beside them and they pulled out some money of fifty notes (50 notes) and they started counting as I watched them after passing the money from one person to the other. After counting the money, they handed to me and stated counting them and of course some 1200 SSP was missing and I told them what was missing and they added it without questioning me. The two cunny boys seemed that they were defeated in the process of counting the money which is the obvious means of cheating people.

Now came the processing of handing them my one hundred dollar as we wound up the exchange process. As a matter of fact, I pulled out my hundred dollars and gave them. In the processing of handing them my hundred dollars, their number increased and they surrounded me and speaking a Language (Vernacular) which I did not understand at all.

Of course, they kept on checking my hundred dollars whether it is fake or not by passing it from person, to the other, then to the other till my money appeared fake dollars in their hands. In this process, a fake hundred dollars appeared from nowhere and they all said that yours is a forfeiture one.

In reality, the crazy young boys did not know that they were dealing with a professional teacher who should not be cheated by villagers who by their very nature are cattle keepers. I told them point blank that mine was original and failure to bring my original hundred dollars back would be a disasters to some of you as per now.  I started rolling the sleeves of my shirt ready to die with the poor man whom I had handed my hundred dollars to him.

I forgot the fact that a teacher should not involve himself in physical confrontations while in public places. However, I could not compromise the issue since it is the only means of survival which could actually bring a tray on my table during the dinner time.

Fortunately, my hundred dollar did not went very far but the stupid man whom I gave him was still holding it in his stained right hands. I was confident that my money was hidden in his right palm hand with some money he was holding. After I rolled up the sleeves of my shirt, I caught his right hand and bent it down and the poor man cried loudly and opened his hands where I saw my hundred dollars and pulled it out in their watch.

In fact, I had decided that day to die with them since they seem to be a group of rebels working internally to destroy the national economy. The silly boy claimed that it was his money and others who surrounded me supported his claims nevertheless, I did not listen to their thoughtless claims. I told them that if this money was theirs, then we should go to the police or Criminal Investigation Department (CID) but they all declined.

I walked out from their ugly faces by stamping my feet roughly on the ground to protest to them that what they were doing was unbecoming behavior. They onlookers were there watching without even saying a word or coming for help and I presumed that that they were their supporters.

In the economic reality, these young boys are actually behind the dollar crises in South Sudan. Many people from other tribes all over South Sudan claim that all Dinka are given dollars by the government and so are the ones responsible the economic crises which is not true. These young boys who speak a language no other than Dinka have tarnished and tainted the image of Dinka as a tribe in the Republic of South Sudan.

Indeed, many tribes have a lot of perceptions about the dealing of dollars and is now shifted to diesel and petrol stations. When I received that 100 USD from my friend indeed, it was like a miracle happening to me because getting a hundred dollar nowadays is like getting a new bride.

In a nutshell, the cheating cases of dollars in the black market has already let to the collapse of national economy which is now threatening livelihoods of all South Sudanese.  The government should do something tangible on the ground to make sure that these people are arrested and brought to book.

In my opinion, I presume that if the issue is not urgently address by closing down the black markets which are involved in the dollars transactions, then there is a possibility that national economy will be no more in few years if not months to come. In fact, the laws of the Republic of South Sudan are very clear to everybody but lack of real implementation remains critical.

The writer is a holder of Bachelor’s Degree of Arts in Education from St. Lawrence University in Uganda and a finalist student of Masters of Education in Emergencies at the University of Juba. He is reachable at

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from.

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