The Egyptians are building a five-star hotel in Juba. Assuredly, the rich and powerful who live in that city will enjoy the fine dining, and those who come to woo them in attempts to gain access to South Sudan’s resources will luxuriate in those OK rooms. However, what will that do for the citizens of South Sudan? Little to nothing. It is doubtful that there will even be menial jobs for our people. Well, perhaps some of our women will find employment cleaning rooms and washing bed linens.
Meanwhile, the vast area of South Sudan desperately needs investment, investment in infrastructure such as wells, roads, railroads, electric plants, and schools. That last, the investment in human infrastructure is incredibly essential. One wonders how many of the young people of Juba will receive their educations in our capital or our country. How many of them go to other countries to go to school while the average teacher outside the city goes without pay and their students go without books, shoes, or decent sanitation?
Most South Sudanese will never stay or work in a five-star hotel and will never stay in any hotel. And, the vast majority will never visit Juba or any other major city such as Khartoum or Cairo. So, until the poverty and desperation of our people are ended, they will remain without even modest prospects, let-alone five-star ones.
While Cairo has invested in a few small wells, that hotel represents far more investment. But what is it an investment in? Considering the needs and realities of our homeland, that hotel is an investment in currying favor from those in power.
Why do the Egyptians care about Juba? Why do they care about South Sudan? The answer flows through and floods our nation. While we have some petroleum, we have far more water, which is the key to the future. Look at the quarrel between Cairo and Addis Ababa over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam filling. The Nile River is the lifeblood of Egypt, and Ethiopia is creating a threat to the flow of the Blue Nile.
Our country’s swamps are the beginning of the White Nile. Cairo wants access to that water, and it is in our nation’s interest to share that water with Egypt, primarily since global climate change has produced an era of flooding for our country. However, such sharing should result in South Sudan’s benefit as well. No, not by building a hotel in Juba but by making real investments in the infrastructure and people of South Sudan.
Let Cairo come up with better ideas if the Egyptian government wants to do something for our nation to encourage us to share our water with their farmers and cities. For example, perhaps, helping us develop flood control projects, create usable farmland and lakes in addition to our natural swamps, and help educate our people in the skills they will need to grow and market agricultural products grown on that farmland. One place Cairo might begin is building and helping to staff a school somewhere in the middle of our country, one in which those necessary new skills might be learned. And, I don’t mean classes in hotel management.
~By Deng Mayik Atem
Publisher of Ramciel Magazine