South Sudan (MNN) — Moving a capital city. It sounds like a herculean task. It’s also almost always controversial, but it’s not new.
Capital relocation has been done hundreds of times throughout history. Hundreds of years ago, the Egyptians, Romans, and Chinese changed their capitals frequently. Sometimes, the motivation was national security. At other times, it was moved for economic development.
Will the move change anything?
Occasionally, a move occurs when the new city is deemed neutral to competing ethnic or religious groups. Francis Tombe is the Sudan/South Sudan field director of Kids Alive International. He explains, “Security is very bad in Juba. People have been complaining for a long time [and have been] talking for a long time about moving the capital. As long as the capital is there [in Juba], the crime will never stop; so that’s one of the reasons.”
They’re worried because their children’s homes, schools, and centers are in Wau. Violence has already touched the city. Moving the capital will likely increase the risk of harm for the children Kids Alive helps. Tombe says this is forcing them to come up with a contingency plan. “Some of our kids are growing up. As soon as I get back, we have to talk about how to protect them and how to do some kind of assessment, like are we going to move further out of town?”
Specifically, he says, “Tribalism is also dividing the country, dividing the people. As we are a new nation, we need to focus on the country. Right now, we’re focused on the tribe. That’s the challenge. Pray also for inner peace for each one of us. We are very disappointed.” South Sudan declared its independence with a referendum in 2009. What started with great hope quickly degenerated into rebel groups fighting for control of the new nation and its resources.
He says the instability is disappointing, but notes that moving the capital may not solve the problem. “The same thing that happened in Juba before, will happen again. When you move the capital, [you move all of it; it will be one package], so it will be very hard for us.”
Contemplating a move at a time when the country also faces a food shortage that is threatening to turn into famine doesn’t make sense. The United Nations estimates the number of people suffering from hunger could rise to four million–almost half of the population. Kids Alive’s staff is already feeling the strain.
In the area, Tombe says, “Even now, some people [haven’t gotten their] salary for three to six months. It’s very, very bad. That will affect us in a different way because there will be war. If we have war, everything will be difficult to operate.” Food prices are already going up, which complicates work for Kids Alive.
It’s not the first time South Sudanese have considered moving the national capital. In 2011, the cabinet approved a $10 billion plan to relocate the capital to Lakes state. Officials said they needed to move because they could not find enough land for government buildings in Juba. However, that plan was never implemented because there wasn’t enough money.
What’s the fix?
Three years later, the problems are worse. Kids Alive is stretching resources and staff to accommodate the growing needs of street children. Despite the uncertainty facing the ministry, Tombe says the staff remains hopeful. “We have a lot of opportunities that we can use. We just need peace (no fighting). If we can have peace, we can do a lot of things for Christ.”
Three things to pray for: strength for the staff in a time of uncertainty, that God would provide for the needs of the children, and that the peace that passes understanding will prevail in South Sudan.