JUBA - Instead of rolling through the streets of Juba on jeeps with guns, hundreds of South Sudanese soldiers walked on foot, armed with hoes and plastic bags last Saturday. Their mission? Clean the streets of Juba before Wednesday’s celebrations over the recently signed, revitalized peace agreement.
Clad in military uniforms, soldiers pulled on gloves and face masks to pick up heaps of trash littering the airport, Juba Teaching Hospital and streets of Juba town.
About 200 youth activists joined the soldiers in the campaign to clean up Freedom Hospital and Nyokuron market. Major General Majir Deng said the soldiers were happy to take part in a peaceful exercise.
“When there is peace, the army is always [ready] to work for the people," Deng told VOA's South Sudan in Focus. "I know they have done their job when they were fighting for the liberation of the country, but that liberation cannot be sustained unless there is work with it, and I think if the city council is ready, we are ready each Saturday to see to it that we work on this, because this is where nationalism starts."
Wani Michael, executive director for the youth group OKAY Africa Foundation, said civil society groups had already been running a monthly campaign titled “nadafa le beledna,” which means "cleaning our country" in Arabic.
“We had planned earlier, but we also use the opportunity to celebrate the signing of the peace agreement because it is still too early for me to celebrate peace, because I don’t see any tangible implementation,” Michael said.
Emmanual Tongun, director of the Doctor Phillips Pharmaceutical Company of Juba, said the company donated three cartons of gloves, 40 packets of face masks and 10 rolls of plastic bags to collect garbage.
“We started off with the same donations because we know very well they are keeping up, doing their best to keep [up] the city with limited funding, so we have given them that extra boost,” Tongun said.
The cleanup exercise was a joint campaign between civil society groups, the Ministry of Defense and the Juba City Council.
Update to airport
Meanwhile, a new passenger terminal opened Monday at Juba International Airport, complete with working computers and modern rest rooms. South Sudan Transport Minister John Luk said the new terminal will change the image of Juba's airport, which has often been described as one of the worst in the world.
International Airport Passenger Terminal One features a VIP lounge, a business class lounge, and an economy class lounge. The facility has been under construction since 2016 by the African Construction Company Limited in a public-private partnership with the South Sudan government
Immigration officer Captain Ben Festo worked Monday on getting up to speed with the new terminal’s computers.
“When the passengers come, we can scan them, enroll them and take their picture and figure prints and this information is saved in the data base,” Festo told South Sudan in Focus.
Festo said the new electronic system will make it much easier to process passengers, which immigration officers used to have to do manually.
Passenger Lagu George is thrilled with the new terminal.
“When you come from Nairobi or Entebbe, you can see how people relax. People used to suffocate and sweat. It was not good, but now they have opened something like this, it’s something we can appreciate,” George told South Sudan in Focus.
Subek Gabriel Dada, chief executive officer of South Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority, apologized to passengers for enduring the long wait to open the new terminal.
“And appreciate that for the long waiting in difficulties they had been going through during rain and heat but now that has come to an end,” Dada told VOA.
South Sudan charges all passengers a $30 airport fee, which is used to help modernize the facility. South Sudan Vice President James Wani Igga, who officially opened the new terminal on Monday, said the airport must operate independently from government officials.
“We must respect rule of law and we must respect orderliness. The airport staff have been harassed from time to time and this must come to a halt from today [onward],” Igga told South Sudan in Focus.