Sudan: Logali and Hand Relief
A month or so ago I was in Juba, South Sudan. While there I stayed at a remarkable place: The Logali House.. I am pretty sure I spotted my friend Scott’s idol, the leader of Hand Relief International (HRI) there.
It was remarkable for several reasons. In the midst of a dusty, rubbish infested city which is springing up from the detritus of a pre – modern and post conflict South Sudan it boasts clean rooms, some of the fastest internet I have used in similar places, excellent steaks and a decent Gin & Tonic. While stuffing my face with a steak flown from Kenya and washing it down with stiff Gin & Tonic served in quite a colonial fashion I could have sworn that I finally spotted Alden Kurtz in the corner. The ever elusive Kurtz was disguised as a 120 kg Japanese ILO consultant.
He was barking into his computer whilst on a Skype call, apparently to ILO higher ups in Geneva. Something about Juba being a god awful place and that the per diem did not cover the costs of doing business in Juba. For the next week Kurtz disguised as this offensive aid worker was seen in all corners of the Logali House – doing business in Juba. Everywhere from the restaurant to the bar. I must say that the bar “George’s” is a decent place.
“Georges” is sort of a clearing house for “aid and peacekeeping chatter” in South Sudan. Kurtz, PDT types such as me, Dfid, UNMIS, some sweaty NGOer’s. Loved it. Felt like Dili in early 2000. Sadly, it was just like Dili in 2000 – few if any Sudanese were involved in the discussion about their future. Oh well, that’s fine, nor were there Timorese in the Dili Club in 2000. Look how well Timor-Leste has turned out.
Its pricey to be sure; but the very affable South African manager was keen to impress on me a better rate should I return. All good then.
One thing on the upside. Before going to Juba I was told by a UN official at the Undersecretary General level that the South Sudanese are not involved in the domestic private sector to such an extent that even all the waiters are from Uganda. Certainly there was alot of that. However the Logali House was also notable for the number of South Sudanese staff it employed – in a place where it seems every waiter and driver is from Uganda (or other countries). It was a pleasant surprise to find “Juba” guys and gals earning a wage – and doing it well. I think Kurtz even managed to separate himself from $5 to tip the staff in “George’s”. Although, peering of his shoulder I noted that he made sure to ask for a blank receipt.
One thing which irked however was the gross discrepancy between those on the inside and those on the outside.
Then there was of course – outside the gate.
Having said all that Juba has a style. I liked it. It is not a god awful place. Its got a few problems to be sure. Its a major project. Possibly a new country in 2011, and fertile ground for an army of Alden Kurtz’s over the next 30 years.