This morning I sent one of my logistics assistants to the Ministry of Finance to see if some tax exemptions were ready for medical supplies we’re bringing in to South Sudan. As a medical charity, we don’t pay import duties, but we need an official exemption letter from the Ministry of Finance for each consignment of goods we bring in. So, at around 10am, I gave him some cash to catch a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) to and from the complex where most of the Government of Southern Sudan ministries are located, and I went off to a meeting with a colleague.

After my meeting, I returned back to the office, and a short while later my assistant came in to see me. “Success?” I asked him, as I do every time he goes on a mission for me. “Failure” he replies, as he does about 30% of the time, which is actually a very good rate of success considering the difficulties of getting things done in South Sudan.

“Just joking!” he laughs, with a huge grin, and pulls out from behind his back the three tax exemptions.

“Was it difficult to get them?” I ask. “Very difficult, sir. I went through thick and thin, because people were gathered many by the door, no way I can enter, people were just pushing like ‘go away, you go there, you go there’ but me, I stood there and I say ‘My friend, I don’t have much there, I just only have my document tax exemptions’ but they say ‘no, no, no no, you wait there, you stand in line!’ and I just for me, stand there just waiting, moving slowly. Then they are pushing some people out, even nobody’s entering in the house, whereby then there was the sound for a gun — pow! pow! — like this, all the security, everybody was opening door, and then running toward the gunshot, everyone was making gun like this [he cocks an imaginary gun] and then I just run there, I enter inside, and they locked the inner door, and the gate as well, and then I just jump — chop-chop! — to the second floor up.”

“I just come like this, I say ‘Yes, madam,’ she says ‘Oh Mr Merlin, you are lost nowadays.’ I say ‘No, I’m there, I’m available,’ they say ‘OK,’ I say ‘I come to check,’ they say ‘no no no OK it’s OK,’ they check my document, they gave me three of them, then somebody just, from behind me, comes like this [pretend that someone grabs him from behind] ‘oh people you are here, oh they shot minister there, people are fighting over there!’ Then all of those people, all at their desks here, they just wake up I said ‘OK bye I’m going.’ We went with them together when I took already my document. I passed just through people [in the street outside] who were making there noise, what-what, just pass through, I’m trying to listen what they’re saying so that I will also try to tell here when I reach here. Then they said ‘They shot uzir there.’ I say ‘Minister for what?’ they say ‘Minister for Cooperation’ kind of thing like that.”

To read the same story as reported by Reuters, about the assassination this morning of South Sudan’s Minister of Rural Development and Cooperatives, head over to http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/09/us-sudan-south-minister-idUSTRE7181TE20110209

2 thoughts on “Pow!Pow!

  1. hey Chris, thanks for this. It’s awful, but this perspective makes news stories such as this seem far more real (and frightening) than columns on a news page. Readers can see how this affects individuals (even if the messenger is “grinning” as he delivers his tax exemptions). Be careful out there. It is admirable work your organization is doing. You and your colleagues stay safe. x

  2. I don’t know how you managed to capture your assistant’s speech so well. I felt as if I were right there, hearing him and seeing him. Thank God he wasn’t hurt or injured. The Reuters article would have had a lot more depth and interest if they had included some realistic “on the ground” reporting from a bystander. Thank you for sharing this!

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