Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid |

Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Imagine for a moment that you lived in Southern Sudan, a dry, desolate region of Africa that less sensitive columnists than this one might aptly describe as a hellhole. Here’s a little background on what your life would be like:

From 1983 to 2005, you were embroiled in the Second Sudanese Civil War, which claimed 1.9 million lives, making it one of the deadliest conflicts on Earth since the end of World War II. Prior to that, you had 11 years of something that wasn’t quite war but certainly wasn’t peace following the end of the First Sudanese Civil War, which ran from 1955 to 1972 but only killed about 500,000 of your countrymen.

As a resident of Southern Sudan, there’s a 90 percent chance you live on less than $1 a day, and if you own a house, odds are it’s a mud hut. Of course, you probably aren’t currently living in your hut, as you are likely among the 4 million refugees who were displaced by the Second Sudanese Civil War and whose villages were destroyed by Northern Sudanese forces.

There is hope for a brighter future in Southern Sudan, however. The peace accord signed by your fledgling government and the one in Northern Sudan has managed to hold for five years now, and it’s paved the way for a scheduled January referendum on independence, meaning that early next year you could be a citizen of the world’s newest country. In the meantime, though, you’ll still be penniless and dying of hunger.

You know what would make you feel better? A city shaped like a pineapple.

Sure, you might think an actual pineapple would be more appropriate for someone in your position, but that’s the kind of short-sighted thinking that will keep Southern Sudan mired in the Dark Ages. Fortunately, your government has much more ambitious goals.

The Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning recently unveiled plans to remake Southern Sudan’s capital cities in the shapes found on their state flags, meaning there will hopefully one day be a city shaped like a giraffe and another one in the form of a pineapple, and the capital of Southern Sudan, Juba, will be shaped like a rhino.

The project, which is expected to cost about $10 billion, might seem an odd way to spend the resources of a government whose entire 2010 budget was $1.9 billion, but the Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning seems to think this is the key to bringing lasting prosperity to Southern Sudan.

“It’s very innovative,” said Dr. Daniel Wani, the ministry’s undersecretary. “It’s unique. It’s the Ministry of Housing thinking you have to be unique to attract the people.”

I’m not sure which people Dr. Wani was referring to, but if he meant the citizens of Southern Sudan, they don’t really need to be “attracted” to Juba. Due in large part to the flood of refugees, Juba’s population swelled from 163,442 in 2005 to an estimated 1.1 million in 2009.

And if Dr. Wani was referring to tourists, I think he might have better luck moving Southern Sudan’s cities to Tahiti than reshaping them like animals or fruit. Even if Juba were shaped like Pamela Anderson, I don’t think anyone would be planning a vacation there anytime soon, seeing as how in Juba basic services like electricity and sewage are considered luxuries.

As for Dr. Wani’s claim that this project is unique, well, there’s already a town in Argentina, Ciudad Evita, that is shaped like Eva Peron, so Southern Sudan’s plan is not exactly new. Granted, Eva Peron bore only a slight resemblance to a rhino, so an animal-shaped city could still be considered one of a kind, but still.

The plan for Juba, soon to be renamed “Rhino City,” includes a police headquarters at the rhino’s mouth, an amusement park at the ear, residential housing in the four legs and, presumably, a sewage treatment plant somewhere near the anus. That is, if Southern Sudan ever manages to secure the necessary funding.

Sadly, though, even the most optimistic Southern Sudanese would have to admit funding is a concern, given that the government has yet to pay the contractors it hired to build 4,350 miles of dirt and gravel roads since 2005.

Still, since you don’t live in Southern Sudan and probably exist on more than a buck a day, if you’re seeking an investment with virtually no chance of making a profit, Rhino City may be just what you’re looking for.