Foreigners in Juba anxiously wait for flights to resume and borders to open


(Posted 18th December 2013)

As the night time curfew continues in Juba and the borders, including the airport remained closed for a second day yesterday, hotels have started to feel the pinch as diesel deliveries have dried up and they are now faced with the prospect to tell their stranded guests that it is ‘lights out’ as they preserve their remaining reserves. Food supplies and other crucial services too appear to have slowed to a trickle as suppliers are at once hoarding their goods as well has have reportedly raised prices for the few deliveries they have made by substantial margins.

Hundreds of people from abroad appear to be stranded in Juba and the rest of South Sudan, since the airport was closed and no flights were allowed to come in and airlift foreigners out of the country and sporadic outbreak of fighting – repeated heavy gunfire was reported yesterday from Juba – has made it a tough wait for those who had come to seek out trade and investment opportunities in Africa’s youngest nation. Airlines, which had to cancel flights, like South Supreme which is based in Juba, have left stranded passengers to fend for themselves as in the words of one regular airline source from the Juba International Airport ‘this is force majeur and beyond us to cater for hotels and meals for all those passengers who are stuck in Juba. It is NOT us who have caused the flights to be cancelled so we are not the problem but I sympathize with our passengers, there is just nothing we can do until the airport is open again. And when that happens I can see problems for my staff and myself as everyone wants to be on the first flight out and that is not possible of course. I keep you posted’.

Tourism, according to a regular and keenly interested Nairobi source is now ‘all but dead’ as in his words ‘no one in his right mind can now send any more tourists there. It was already a tough sell as an extension from Nairobi because of all the security concerns and all their bloody red tape down to needing a licence for a camera. But this latest situation makes it impossible because there is simply no guarantee of visitor’s safety and security. In any case, we are aware that the claims made by government there are far from true. This fighting has the potential to spread across much of the South Sudan and we know who is to blame’ without then naming the party he felt was guilty of deception.

South Sudan’s national parks are gems waiting to be discovered but the few operators of tented safaris in South Sudan have all remained shtumm over their prospects of future business development in the face of this latest setback.

There has been no word as to when flights into Juba can resume and Kenya Airways’ three flights a day, as are Air Uganda’s two daily flights, remain suspended until there is clarity and the guarantee of aircrafts’ safety on landing and takeoff from the South Sudan authorities, before operations can resume.

The land border from Uganda near Nimule also remains closed and trucks with cargo for South Sudan are now making a long line back from the border waiting for news. Busses and other passenger cars have reportedly turned back or travellers have opted to return by other means to Kampala, while on the South Sudan side of the border vehicles are also piling up waiting to get out of South Sudan.

Meanwhile are Embassies and High Commissions in Kampala on standby and constant contact with their missions in Juba, or their citizens directly in cases where no diplomatic offices have yet been established, to monitor the situation and provide evacuation assistance just as soon as circumstances allow. Watch this space for more updates as and when available.