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SOUTH SUDAN

Letter to Gary Simpson from soil collection volunteer


Gary - Do you have any "Michelin" maps of Africa? Look down in the south part of "Sudan", and you will find Juba. Look further south and you will find "Yei". The map should show the road from Juba to Yei, so just as you see where it leaves the town of Juba (along that road), you would find the commercial venture called "Terrain Camp" on the south side of the road a) if it were a NEW aerial photograph-type map, and b) if the scale was appropriate! I likely have photos of the general area, in fact, as well as a few aerial shots of the camp itself.

I will arrange for the GPS coordinates of the exact location where the sample came from (which was inside the camp security fence).

Our team was in supporting the Office of the President (of So. Sudan) with both logistical and advisory personnel. I was the "Regional Security Advisor", and I have lots of photos from the air and the ground of many areas within a 2 hr. flight radius of Juba. Someone else requested photos of sunrises and cloud formations (???) so I have quite a few of those also, plus material from Nairobi and Kampala.

Yes, the soil sample collection date would have been about March 7th or 8th, as I recall. The temp was running about 114 F. every day, the few early rains had brought no relief as of that time (in the mid- to upper-80's now), and the biggest hardship was airborne dust and lack of physical infrastructure ... no real water distribution beyond private boreholes, and barrels/oil drums filled from water trucks. Waste was handled by 'honey wagons' or nature.... don't ask. Electric power was intermittent, often "off" for much of the mid-day heavy load time, and again later at night. Most firms had their own generator sets, boreholes, and guard/security folks, and there were about 35-40 miles of paved road in an area roughly the size of Texas. Schools were limited mostly to the few larger towns, likewise any health services (supplies were another matter) and illiteracy was said to be over 95%. Planned neglect by the North and disdain for the humanity of the non-muslim Southerners is nowhere more manifest than in the inexcusable neglect of education and basic infrastructure ... many of the main streets in Juba are nothing more than a series of potholes ('hog-wallows' would be smaller ... one "charmer" which we traversed numerous times would have been just right for a small herd of hippos....4 large SUV's could have fit into it at once!).

There is serious talk of building a new capital ... which would likely be wiser and cheaper than trying to work around the problems inherent in Juba today... lack of a viable land area for expansion, questions of land ownership and property rights from the local area tribal group, a geography that precludes efficient layout of water and septic lines or storm sewers, and issues with running power lines as well. The local area is not good terrain for cell phone coverage, so this is spotty at best, and both phones and such internet connections as exist are severely impacted by rain (i.e., they stop working for indefinite lengths of time). Juba is also hotter than many relatively nearby areas, which is not a small concern!

The story could go on, but lets not get negative and critical here ... the reality of the above should be demoralizing enough for those who dream of "Kunta Kinte" going back to Ghana/Africa, etc. South Sudan is NOT "Africa Light"! - J

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