By Yuggu Charles
Rabuk Chaplan stood bewildered and confused as bulldozers mowed down a building that has been his home and clinic for many years. He tried pleading with government officials to spare his home but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
He is among hundreds of people whose houses have been targeted for demolition in Juba as the government cleans up the city in preparation for the birth of the new nation following the recent referendum.
Chaplan has been operating a clinic at the customs market since 2007. He has also been living at the same premises. But he is now homeless and risks losing his business that has helped him to feed his family.
“My drugs are getting expired in the store because they are kept at a temperature that is not suitable. Now I am forced to rent another small structure which is very expensive,” he stated. He said that he has migrated to Nyakuron West, but life is not easy following the demolition of the customs market. “Prices of food and other commodities have more than doubled, making life very difficult,” he said.
The Central Equatorial State authorities issued a decree to demolish both un-demarcated residential and commercial buildings in the area. It issued warnings over national radio and Southern Sudan Radio telling residents of Nyakuron, Hai Nyakama, Kasaba and Gumbo to leave within seven days.
Many affected people have being living in these places for the last 40 years but, compensation from the government seems unlikely because the authorities only issued seven days warning for everyone to leave the areas and without any mention of compensation.
The operation started at Hai Nyakama, opposite Garang’s Mausoleum. The State authorities however said that the exercise was meant to improve Juba by allowing better town planning but, residents complained of the short notice given.
Women, children and the elderly have borne the brunt of the demolition work, as many of them have been forced to sleep in the open or take shelter under shades. One victim, Margret Jojo, 28, a mother of two, said she will continue to sleep in the open at the site of her former house. “I have nowhere to go. I will continue to live under this tree shade until the government comes to my rescue,” she said as she nursed her one year old daughter.
Many children who were enrolled in the nearby schools for the academic year 2011 are finding it difficult to go and attend lessons. Alice Jokudu Kenyi had enrolled two of her daughters in Juba Christian Centre primary school. Due to this exercise, she has relocated to Gudele, block seven. “My children are facing serious difficulties as they have to walk for more than 5 miles to reach the school which is located in Western Juba, as there is no transport,” she said. She added: “The tragedy is that the demolitions have happened during the rainy season. We were rained on and my household belongings have been damaged by the rain.”
Kenyi said she has been living in Nyakuron since 1981 and was surprised to be given notification to leave the area in only seven days. “Life is now very harsh. The price of 50 kilograms of maize flour has risen to 130 Sudanese pounds, up from 80. Water is also scarce and we trek long distances to get it.”
Another victim is Nyeko Justin, a business man. He imports fish from neighboring Uganda to Juba and is now considering closing down altogether after he lost his business premises and many of his customers. I lost fish worth 3000 Sudanese pounds. I was away in Uganda when the bulldozers destroyed my house and business. My customers do not know how to reach me now.”
Kadoro Mary, another person displaced by the demolition work, had been living in the Nyakuron residential area since 1990 and now has nowhere to go. “The government should have given us an alternative. This is very cruel,” she said.