Juba’s little Kalisto who rose too high

By Patrick Oyet

Witch doctors in the South Sudanese capital Juba trembled at the mention of his name, roadside vendors fled at his site and top-flight generals saw their barricaded homes broken through.

Kalisto Ladu Wani will be remembered for long for actions that people in South Sudan dare not do.

A gubernatorial decree in March this year brought Kalisto Ladu Wani as Mayor of Juba City.

A little known man, he rose to popularity, not only in the country but also in the diaspora in only nine months in office.

Witch doctors still cannot believe kalisto is out of office.

They still recall his words: “I have arrested the witchdoctors of Gudele and I am going to arrest any witchdoctor in this city. I am told that the witchdoctors are planning to have a conference in which they want to make a resolution on how to deal with the mayor. I urge you people to let me know once that conference is on, I will go there and arrest all of them.”

No wonder the conference was never heard of again.

Kalisto went ahead to arrest a number of suspected witchdoctors and arraigned them in a local court (court of first instance).

Those found guilty were either fined, jailed or punished with both, those found innocent were set free but the move was received with mixed reaction from the public.

“I think the mayor is not serious, there are so many things that are a priority in this city for example, Juba City has no sewerage system, it has no proper drainage system, the roads are always not swept, the tarmac is taken up by sand and the mayor is focusing on witchdoctors,” Richard Sultan a freelance journalist said.

Francis Okech an editor at Juba Echo agrees with Sultan. “How does the mayor determine that those he is arresting are witchdoctors? You don’t just arrest somebody because you found the person with some traditional tools like calabash and then you say that person is a witchdoctor.”

There were however many who celebrated the move by the mayor, social media was a-washed with his statements.

For the first time in the history of the Juba City Council, its mayor was talkative, articulate, he was ready to enforce the City Council laws.

Finished with witchdoctors, he then turned elsewhere.

Now roadside vendors are out of the streets of Juba, streets themselves have been expanded and homes built on road reserves demolished.

One commentator said Kalisto could be equated only to South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth when it comes to articulating issues.

And the big task was the opening up of roads that were blocked by illegally erected structures.

The former mayor was so passionate, he went to customs market, Hai Thura, Abyei Chok among other areas, demolishing illegally erected structures.

Kalisto did not care whether or not those structures belonged to the army generals.

“What the mayor is doing regarding opening up roads is very fine, now we have some space, the city looks much better,” said one Lebanese businessman in Juba.

On removing the vendors from the streets, there was mixed reaction, some residents of the capital Juba said the mayor had not put into consideration the women who had no other sources of income other than the money got from the sale of goods along the roadside.

The former mayor then moved to deal with coffin sellers and hardware shop owners.

However, as the mayor was busy fighting to modernize the city, many of his officials were busy levying fines and multiple taxes on businessmen and businesswomen, something that prompted the Central Equtoria Chamber of Commerce to threaten to sue the City Council.

The former mayor also went to arrest a number of people who were allocating land illegally to other Juba residents.

That prompted the Juba County Commissioner to run to Central Equatoria State Governor Adil Anthony, accusing the mayor of acting ultra-virus and taking some of his (commissioner’s) powers.

That proved a blow, a final one for Kalisto.

Some of my friends from the US who are from Lakes State Media say the majority of South Sudanese people in the diaspora want Kalisto reinstated as mayor.

In a nutshell, Kalisto’s sacking in November 2021 has divided South Sudanese people and for the first time South Sudanese are discussing issues based on the work of the former mayor but not on tribal lines.

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