Plan International Australia CEO Ian Wishart is in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to attend Saturday’s independence ceremony.
Standing in a queue for three hours to receive accreditation for the big celebration on Saturday I must admit I started to think about how many people in a food distribution line must feel.
It was hot and sweaty. There was the occasional cut-in trying to move up the line. Every now and then an incredibly tall security guard with a weapon would move down the line and hustle everyone back into single file. Nobody argued with him.
You could feel the frustration rising. After all, most people in the line considered themselves VIPs. They were invited guests, journalists, officials of the UN and aid agencies. Here they were in a long queue. Yet, despite the wait and the confusion, the mood was celebratory. Everyone was happy, excited and buoyant. The long-awaited day was near. Independence for South Sudan.
People jumped from one queue to the next to greet old friends. They swapped stories of the struggle and where they had last seen each other. The mix of nationalities was diverse: Africans from all over, but especially from close neighbours Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda; a plethora of different Europeans, including Dutch, British, and Scandanavians; Asians, North Americans and even a few of us Aussies made up the mix.
One thing we all had in common, however, is that in this country you look up to people. On average, you would have to say that the typical South Sudanese is much taller than you and I. In fact, many in the room were exceptionally tall, close to 7-feet tall in the old measurement. Perhaps that explained why there was an official representative of the NBA on the plane coming in.
Already there are a couple of South Sudanese in that premier league and one could imagine that the NBA are thinking this would be a great sport development area. Development is most definitely the name of the game in this country now that peace has come.