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Juba election fever

We are flying above a scrubby desert then suddenly close to a large rocky outcrop, the silver glint of the river nile as it snakes through the hot earth, and the scattered town of Juba on either bank.

Juba – historic town of the vast territory of South Sudan – wars have been fought here, colonial explorers struggled to reach here, and deals determining the future of the peoples of the South, have been struck here.

Now, it’s the first elections in the South for over 20 years. Not that Juba seems gripped with election fever – massive election posters with solemn pictures of the president and vice-president are placed at the air-port and on road corners, but otherwise, it looks and feels pretty much like many other towns across the region…only the rusting tanks in the streets might tell a different story.

Since a peace deal was signed between north and south sudan in 2005, and Juba was selected as the capital, the town – I’m told – has boomed.

In a tell-tale sign of the first flush of peace, new buildings have sprung up everywhere..tall mobile telephone towers…and hotels to accomodate the new influx of visitors, NGOs, businessmen – my hotel is run and staffed by Kenyans.

But negatives too, children beg in the markets because of shocking levels of poverty – South Sudan remains one of the poorest places on earth.  Five years of peace but kids are finding it tough..much has been done, but as one save the children staff member told me yesterday, ‘this is just the beginning…’.

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