By Chol Duang
OPINION – Government authorities — both city and town managers — should move to ban sitting along the public roads, streets and residential driveways, as this endangers the lives of those sitting near the road, motorists and pedestrians. Moreover, the habit has become a source of friction among road users and affects everyone; it also poses social vices, including mugging, snatching, robbery or physical assault on passers-by.
First and foremost, roads are used by motorists, pedestrians, hawkers and vendors.However, tea drinkers are gradually encroaching on roads without regard to safety. The City administration should devise an equitable plan for town and residential streets in Juba, and invite local mayoral officials in Bahr Ghazal and Upper Nile to replicate in their towns and markets. If roadside lounging is a South Sudanese custom, the government should, therefore, designate sitting locations such as public parks, plazas or around bus stops.
I have lived in cities like Nairobi, Kampala and visited several others, but I have not seen people leaving bars, coffee places, restaurants to go and sit by the roadside as they take tea and lounge about. A person gets penalized for attempting to sit aimlessly near the road because it’s deemed unsafe to oneself and those traveling.
It’s even worse when you’re driving on a residential street anywhere in Juba, and you come so close to people drinking tea near your driveway. Sometimes, you get berated for not turning off your car’s headlights.
While there might be factors bringing people to roadside spaces — including unemployment, politics, tea and social conversation, it’s giving out the ugly and lazy image of our city population to foreigners. Consequently, service industries like restaurants, bars, coffee/tea and hotels become empty since people prefer sitting outside of such social places.
Juba City Council and its counterparts in the country should pass an ordinance that prohibits roadside sitting; concentrate tea sellers in designated areas, where hygiene and order must be strictly enforced. The burgeoning idling crowd along Juba City streets, driveways and alleys came as a result of lack of social orders for use of public spaces.
For far too long, municipal administrations in South Sudan have miserably failed their people to deliver social services and improve the image of their cities and towns; everywhere is an eyesore, yet they collect huge amounts in taxes for amenities. Our mayors and assistants have repeatedly visited most countries on a benchmarking mission for their cities and towns: Why is there no improvement?
Chol Duang is a South Sudanese journalist, literacy advocate and political communicator. He has worked as television news anchor and reporter, and also a Mandela Washington and Korean Leadership Program fellow respectively.
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