Monday, April 5, 2010

Visit to Raga

Western Bahr El Ghazal State is about twice the size of Denmark (90,000 km2) with a population of approximately 400,000 people. The state is divided into three counties, in two of these Danish Red Cross is working and the German Red Cross is working in the third. Currently, I am working on the volunteer structure of Sudanese Red Crescent in the State covering all three counties so of course I had to go to Raga (the third county) to visit the office there.
There is a flight twice a week but we had no time to sit around waiting for a plane so we, the volunteer coordinator and I, jumped in a car and went on a 7 hour long road trip. The road to Raga is still under construction. The first two hours we went with full speed but after that it took us something like 5 hours to cover 150 km. And want a bumpy ride that was…..

Despite the broken backs it was a beautiful trip with lots of baboons, different kinds of monkeys, gazelles and other animals along the road. There were few people and you really feel how isolated the villages are.

In Raga I stayed with German Red Cross delegate, Roberto – yes, an Italian. He did a great job as guide. Raga is a very nice place, bigger than I expected but with lots of air between the houses unlike Wau that has more of a “big-city-feel” to it…well, at least in South Sudan terminology. But just like Wau, Raga has a big church built by the Italian missionaries. Unfortunately, civil war had affected the church and it is no longer functional.

The trip home was extra exciting since the Sopo river, completely dry when we passed it on the way there, had filled up and blocked all traffic. At the river bank were several people who had spent the last two nights there waiting for their means of transportation (bus, truck, car) to cross the river. For us there was no need for worry. Our driver, Awad, drove straight through the river and even started helping others getting their car across – what can I say: Toyota Landcruiser!

And then it was time for the entertainment of the day when the kwajaa (the white girl) pulled up her pants and crossed - and then went back in for this picture!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A new chief in town

Already during my first stay in Wau was I invited on a rather special experience that I would like to share with you.

My colleague, Mariana, comes from a small village, Abushaka, 40 minutes drive outside of Wau. In the village it was apparently time to get rid of the old chief and replace him with a new and younger model (let me just mention that this is a political position and the chief was appointed by the Governor) – though I have to say the new chief did not seem that much younger than his predecessor.

The choice of a new chief need to be celebrated, and so it was! 3 days of party with visitors from near and far – nothing less will do.

Many different tribes were present and most of the people dressed in traditional clothing and dancing non-stop for 3 days.

Mariana, her sisters and I went out to the village Sunday afternoon after mass (ok, I didn’t go but had to wait for the others to come out of church). It was the last day of celebration and less happening but we still decided to go and have a look.

The new chief had decided to do the opposite of his people and show up in a suit and with a very nice walking cane – not being too young and all. It seemed he hadn’t completely adjusted to the job and the many tasks that comes with it such as making himself available for photo sessions with curious kawaajas (that is what they call us white people), so I had to settle for a photo together with the Wau County Commissioner, a very charismatic man introducing himself as Freedom Fighter and now chosen by the people to care take their interests. How he has been chosen by the people in a country I did not ask him, since I was not there to discuss politics but rather to take some nice photos on a Sunday afternoon – and to transfer as many women and children as possible back to Wau .