Rumble: The Driver's License

From Enrico in South Sudan.

During my security briefing in Khartoum prior to my deployment into South Sudan, I’m reminded that international staff are not supposed to drive and therefore no local driving licence is required: “Local drivers speak the local language, they know the local driving customs and the terrain, they know where to run for help if need be.”, they said. “Fair enough, something less to worry about”, I thought.

A few days later, when I arrive in my new Southern Sudan duty station, I receive a warm welcome from one of our local drivers. For the rest of the week, I end up being the only driver in the office. No news of the nice chap that picked me up from the airstrip. All the other drivers are on field missions.
I assume the policy “always to use a driver” was more of a “generic guideline”.
“Maybe I should start thinking of a driving licence, just for emergencies”, I think.

It is a thought that recurs when one of the young drivers comes back from his walk-about. I ask him why he’d disappeared for a week without permission.
- “Nothing special”, he tells me, “A chap wanted to marry my younger sister, but couldn’t afford the dowry of 35 cows we’d negotiated. So he decided to kidnap my sister. My family and I chased them up. We –euh—“renegotiated” (and he had a big smile on his face as he said this) the dowry and they’ll soon be married,” he concludes, nodding with a satisfied smile.
- “So, do you have more unmarried sisters?”, I ask.
- “Three more”, he says. It makes me think “I really need to get me a driving licence, before he starts chasing yet another future brother-in-law of his!”

The next time I got to the regional capital, Juba, I fill in the forms to apply for a local driving license.
- “Not a problem, sir!”, says our Juba head driver, “You only need to pass an eye test!”
He takes me to a place which looks no-where like a hospital or a place where they practice medicine... He explains this is where eye tests are carried out. A middle aged lady takes me to an empty room. Our head driver and the lady exchange a few words in the local language, she fills in a form, stamps it and gives me the receipt.
- “Let’s go, sir!” The head driver announces abruptly.
- “How about my eye test?”, I protest.
- “It’s all done, sir! She looked into your eyes and didn’t see anything wrong.”

A few days later, I am the proud owner of a Sudanese driver’s license. Life is good.


Picture courtesy Ulrik Pedersen

2 comments:

Pernille,  19 October, 2007 07:32  

Hi Peter
Good to hear that they got that one sorted in Juba. In Kampala I got an East African license which seems to work all over, also Southern Sudan, though no one there never ever bothered me about a driver's licence.

Hope Juba is treating you well. I will be back blogging soon, again. Waiting for the work permit...

Pernille

Peter Casier 19 October, 2007 10:48  

Hey Pernille,

(those were stories from Enrico, not from me... i am still in comfortable Rome, while they shipped Enrico off from Rome to South Sudan...)

Yeah when I worked in Uganda, I was always using either my Belgian or International license.. Nobody ever asked me anything either.

Come back soon! Missing you in the Blogosphere!!!

P.

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