In January, a vote was held to determine if the southern 10 states of Sudan wanted to secede and form a new nation. As you are probably aware, the north of Sudan is predominantly Muslim, while the south is either Christian or animist. The vote was approximately 96% in favor of secession.
In December, my wife, Judy, and I visited Juba, soon to be the capital of Southern Sudan. We obtained our Travel Permit from the Government Liaison of Southern Sudan in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This office is a short distance from the Hilton Hotel, but two blocks from a paved highway on a rocky, potholed alley. There we met with a woman who gave us an application to complete. We had previously been told that we needed two copies of our passport photo pages and two photographs each. After completing the form, it only took about 30 minutes to obtain the permit, which cost $50 US each.
There is a daily flight from Addis to Juba on Ethiopian Airlines. The Juba International Airport is definitely Third World. We had to stand in a shoving group of passengers to get our permit stamped for a fee by the immigration officers. The luggage was off-loaded from the plane onto pick-ups and tractors, and then dumped on the floor of the terminal through a rough window at the side of the building. Each bag was searched by hand, as there was no x-ray machine.
As fate would have it, our bags never came. We made friends with a custom officer who promised to search for the bag. When we returned to the airport to fly back to Addis, he came running, saying he had found one bag, that had just come in from Addis; with my help he found the other.
We stayed at the Juba Bridge Hotel, which cost $250 per night, including three meals a day. The meals were very good. Credit cards were not accepted, but we could pay with US dollars. They only accepted large denominations and only those printed after 2006. The room was large with nice furnishings and a flat screen TV, but we had no hot water. We did, however, have bed bugs!
There were two bars at the restaurant, and many locals and expats sat at Nile side tables and enjoyed a variety of drinks as they enjoyed the scenery. There was a great view of the White Nile with people bathing and fishing, and the bridge to Uganda nearby. We saw no river traffic at all. We surmised it was probably a security issue because of the nearness of that important bridge. A band kept us awake until 2 am with loud music.
The people, though poor, were very friendly. We left before the voting, but from talking to the people, there was no doubt of the outcome. They were worried, however, about whether they would have enough international support if violence occurred after the vote was announced.
TCC Past President Kevin Hughes was actually in Juba for the vote and celebration. He wrote several articles, which can be read online. He’ll have some fascinating stories to tell! It will be interesting to see how things develop with the formation of a new country. I expect the TCC will be voting to add Southern Sudan to the list of countries in the near future.
−Ronald L. Endeman, President