A False Thief
Sokiri was dressed in a red shirt and a pair of green trousers. His eyes were bloodshot and weary. His hair was sparse and unkempt. On his feet was a pair of tyre-sandals locally made in Konyokonyo market. He had never imagined he would wear those out of date things again but for some desperate petty thief who had broken into his hut, about three days earlier, and had stolen the only pair of shoes he had.
Sokiri was almost the only living creature moving along the road, may be it was because many of his people had migrated to Northern Sudan. His legs kept on carrying him from one side of the road to the other as he trudged on from the direction of Hai Game market. Red dust rose and settled wherever he stepped on the gravel road. He shook his head bitterly.
“Wallai (1),” swore Sokiri. “These Amni Sudan (2) boys…roaming all over Juba on their motor bikes…” he continued, “they have just messed up my day, by ordering the old woman to close her andaya (3) that it is becoming a centre for political talk for the common people. But could not people have breathing space?” He still wanted to continue drinking. Now he could not make it to another andaya: he was not sure if those other women would also allow drinking on credit. “How could I go back home so early, with still two hours or so for the sun to set? How could young boys force a man to go home so early to a nagging wife? And…and…the on and off bombardment of Juba town… Wallai, how could a man run around and cower like a child, let alone shake like a leaf? These rebels…who claim to be fighting for a New Sudan, for the liberation of their people in Southern Sudan...Where do these Junubeen (4) want to take us? First it was the Anya-Nya civil war (5); now it is the SPLM…(6) Sokiri paused, only briefly, as he scratched his rough goatee and then sent a jet of saliva sideways.
“Fighting. Fighting. Fighting. No peace. How could they torture us like that? Khartoum is very far and peaceful. People who have been to that place have talked of life flourishing there, as if there is no civil war in the country! Business! Business! Business! The Northerners – the Arabs – are doing very well in that. Then the new and modern buildings springing up almost everywhere in Khartoum. New and modern houses…and I’m here sleeping in a grass-thatched hut in Juba, wasting my whole life…”
He shook his head once more from side to side.
“How can some people in Juba live in better houses and others like me in mere huts? All my life, I’ve never slept under a corrugated iron roof…Never: only huts, huts, huts... grass-thatched roof, with mud walls and mud floors…Imagine I’ve never even climbed up any stairs! Not even those ones of wazarat (7). The world is changing and progressing and some people like me are still sleeping in those filthy dwellings - garbage - fit for animals.”
He moved on, unsteadily along the road, raising more dust.
“The civil war…the rebels…are spoiling my dream of becoming a rich businessman like Mahmoud. Now they’ve even made Mahmoud go back to Khartoum.” He had worked with Mahmoud, managing his grinding mill at Hai Atlabara, a suburb in Juba, for almost two years, but now things had changed...“Now the man has left Juba and was gone for good...all because of their shelling of the town. SPLA! (8) Curse on them.”
For about six months now, Sokiri had no job, and the little money he had saved all along was no more. “I’ll have to go to Khartoum. Who will stop me?” His cousin, Loro, who was a Major in the Sudanese Army, had assured him about two days earlier that things would be all right. Was it not that things were easy for an army man since this was a military government? According to Major Loro, Sokiri’s name was already on the list with the man in charge of Sudan Airways Cargo, at Juba Airport; it was a matter of less than two weeks…Of course, the only means possible to travel between Juba and Khartoum was by air…“But these free things also…let me hope I won’t take six months waiting like my sister the previous year. What else is there apart from hoping and hoping…? But that hard-headed wife of mine… She doesn’t want to go with me to a better place? Okay. I’ll leave her behind and we’ll see who will win. I may even get married to a beautiful Mundukuru (9) girl in Khartoum. She thought I was a simple man? She was joking with life…And that stupid friend of hers, Korofo…it was all because of her.”