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Handbag grabbing: An Open Letter to Women Shoppers of Juba's Markets

By Deng Kiir Akok

Dear women shoppers of Juba City's markets, allow me to convey this message to you to express my personal disappointment with the rampage grabbing of your handbags by criminals out there in the streets or markets.

This happens whenever you go on shopping in Suk (market) Weiwei, Suk Militia, Suk Sita, Suk Konyokonyo, Suk Jebel, Suk Libya, Suk Custom and Suk Juba. Hence, this letter is in response to your daily basis unacceptable suffering from the hands of robbers. I am happy to have spared this little time to write to you on how you would cope with the phenomenon.

I know it well that these robbers are not only targeting your handbags but also targeting men's bags. But since your vulnerability is by far worse than that of men, so these two things can't be compared.

Such activities of grabbing handbags in public didn't exist in then Sudanese and now South Sudanese culture. I put blames for foreign criminals to have imported this culture into our society. But it's believed that such acts emerged with every day shrinking economy of a war-torn country since 2013. In such a situation, there's a significant increase in the number of street children that at their maturity turned robbers and endanger the society.

Last Saturday on August 13, 2016 in Konyokonyo while I was passing by, a robber attacked a woman waiting for public transport. I heard a woman crying out behind me, my handbag! My handbag! Cried a woman. When I looked for what was happening, I saw a young man running away while in his one hand was a woman's handbag. Everyone by that moment was trying to see what was going on near them.

Lucky enough, one member of public was caught by the attention and rushed to where a woman was crying. As a robber was running away, he crossed his leg on a robber's legs that caused him (robber) to fall onto the ground. Seeing this was of good hope and what came to my mind was to join the man to catch a robber. The robber didn't waste his time laying on the ground. He spent no second on the ground and picked himself up and ran to the darkness behind the shops. There, he was out of our sights and we can't see him again.

He left us with no idea. A woman's handbag with a mobile phone and money in it was gone. I was so disappointed with the incident. I would have chased him up to hell if I was wearing a lace-up shoes. But with sandals I can't run even a metre distance.

This was not the first time for me to see this happening in Konyokonyo market or elsewhere in Juba. In May, 2016, while we were passing Konyokonyo, I saw several young men grabbing a certain lady's handbag on the roadside. It was around 7:30pm local time.

These robbers loiter at bus stations and on the roadsides pretending to be bus conductors and shoppers that help them see women on shopping.

Sometimes back in May and June this year, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) military polices used to patrol these markets in the late evening hours but it was dropped later for reason we don't know. This was of great help to those who leave the markets at late hours and on the benefits of women vulnerable to robbers.

It's very difficult nowadays to know who's a robber and who's not, in those markets. Because the robber may come driving a car, Boda Boda (motorcycle) or on a bare foot. No one knows which direction the robber may use to approach you.

However, I have suggestions here under that would help end your handbags' robbery. And they are:

1. Put your money in the pocket or use your mind in case you have no pocket while going on shopping. Putting your money in the pocket will give robbers hard time to take it from you. I know there're armed robbers who can even tell you to hand them all your possessions with no resistance or noise. But this suggestion will only work in a situation where you are attacked by unarmed robber.

2. Trust no one whiles in the streets or markets. It's because no one is sure what that person would think of you. These robbers in those places pretend to be potential passengers waiting for public buses to come and pick them. So be watchful of such people.

3. Quit those markets before 6:30 pm. The robbers use darkness as their opportunity to stage robbing on you.

4. Carry your handbags empty. Robbers grab your handbags with an idea that in there're a mobile phone and money. So in implementing this suggestion will make them change their minds on valuing your handbags to contain money and valuable materials.

5. Whenever you're in the streets or markets, be watchful to avoid your handbags being grabbed by criminals out there. To avoid this risk, you need to look right, left, in front and behind as you go to your intended destination.

Nowadays, Juba has become a dangerous place to move with a bag in the streets or markets. I hope the above suggestions will help you withstand your handbags' robbery in the capital.

God blesses South Sudan.

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