Tony Calderbank outside his 'Nightclub' office, Juba, South Sudan

Tony Calderbank outside his 'Nightclub' office, Juba, South Sudan

Tony Calderbank outside his 'Nightclub' office, Juba, South Sudan

Rosie Goldsmith is a journalist and presenter of the British Council’s international affairs podcast, The Exchange. Rosie travelled through the two new nations of North and South Sudan to report for the British Council on its English Language projects in both countries and show how learning English is helping development.

Flying into Juba was visually stunning. Below me lay lush green landscapes, picturesque villages, umbrella-like trees, red earth, low, rocky mountains and the winding blue water of the Nile.

Juba’s hotels are either hastily converted old houses or ships’ containers, or quickly erected pre-fabs. I’m staying at Logali House, which has 17 rooms and is much coveted by visiting foreigners because it has running (brown) water, flushing loos, air conditioning, a bar, two massive multi-channel TV screens, free WIFI, good imported food and, strangely, English three-pin plug sockets.

Logali House, though, is luxury compared with the rest of Juba, which has no landlines, poor connectivity and very few computers. But everyone has at least one mobile phone, not least for listening to the radio. It is good to be in a country again where radio, my great love, is such an important and popular lifeline.

Juba also has no banks, no industry (except the White Bull Brewery), erratic electricity supplies, an unstable new currency (South Sudanese pounds), no railways and mainly dirt track roads with craters so deep your car can easily roll over – hence the 100s of western jeeps and trucks being imported and sold by enterprising transport companies.

In many ways South Sudan is starting from scratch after two civil wars and decades of conflict. During the troubles, nearly all the men were bush guerrillas, any development or modernization was impossible, most children did not go to school and illiteracy was at least 85 per cent, maternity mortality rates were the highest in the world and there were no real cities t all, just tribal villages.

Juba is South Sudan’s new, possibly temporary, capital. And while it can already boast some small degree of safety and normality (in spite of an evening curfew and the abundance of guns and alcohol), the rest of the country is still considered dangerous and destitute. I have to keep reminding myself that the peace agreement was only completed in July this year, and Sudan still has four active and deadly conflicts.

It’s a difficult time for all Sudanese – that in-between transition where anything goes and hopes are high.

Juba swarms with international aid agencies, charities, foreign businesses and newly created foreign embassies, most of them as yet unbuilt. The UN inhabits a massive compound with high walls and barbed wire. I meet directors and delegates and volunteers from the VSO, UNESCO, the BBC World Service Trust, the British Embassy and, of course, the British Council.

Juba’s brand new British Council Director is Tony Calderbank, who has relocated from Saudi Arabia with his wife and their two cats. They have all been living in Logali House since August and probably won’t have their own home, currently being built, until Christmas. Tony has two staff who run the small one-room office with flair and efficiency.

The office operates next to the toilets inside a night club called Havana, and you can hear loud music throughout the night from Logali House. In the morning you have to tread carefully over broken bottles and rubbish to reach the office, the window of which looks out on huts, chickens and washing lines.

But Tony Calderbank is enthusiastic and excited. The opportunities for the British Council here in South Sudan are golden. Since the new government has declared English its official language, and since most of the population mostly speak rather colloquial ‘Juba’ Arabic and a mix of about 150 tribal languages, the British Council can step in and offer its services.

British Council Focus on Sudan and South Sudan

The Exchange – Episode 3 – Sudan and South Sudan by British Council. Uploaded with Scup

The Exchange: blogs from Sudan and South Sudan
Rosie Goldsmith is a journalist and presenter of the British Council’s international affairs podcast, The Exchange. Rosie travelled through the two new nations of North and South Sudan to report for the British Council on its English Language projects in both countries and show how learning English is helping development.
The Exchange – The long road to Khartoum
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 1
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 2
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 3
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 4

See Rosie’s photos from her time in Sudan and South Sudan

South Sudan: Out of Bounds
Tony Calderbank, British Council Country Director in the newly minted Republic of South Sudan, finds that having an office in the corner or a nightclub makes life a lot more interesting.

Sudan: Making music where the 2 Niles meet
Tilal Salih, a British Council Project Delivery Manager working in Khartoum, Sudan, blogs about a remarkable meeting of musical minds in a reborn festival by the banks of the Nile.

Tim Cumming blogs for The Huffington Post from the 10th Khartoum International Music Festival

Audioblog: Active Citizens in Sudan by British Council

Find out more about the British Council’s work in Southern Sudan.