Around 10am Saturday, I received a call from my friend who I was having brunch with at 11am. She informed me that our brunch may not pan out so well as the SPLA decided to do weapons checks and the entire city was on virtual lockdown.
Yeah, maybe not so much with the brunch.
Basically, the SPLA decided to shut down the city and go house to house through each sector of the city, looking for illegal weapons. Of course in doing so, it meant also shutting down the airport, as well as most road and foot traffic.
While this is my first experience with this, I know that these weapons checks happen from time to time. Generally they go all out and are very strict in the morning, start to ease up around 12/1pm, and by evening everything is back to normal. However, if you are driving before the “back to normal” stage, you can pretty much expect to be stopped and searched at a check point every 100m.
Several NGOs and orgs will put their staff into lockdown during this time. I was not (although we received an email suggesting we limit our travel in Juba until the checks eased up), but one org had everyone in lockdown from 8am Sat – 9am Sun. Phew!
My brunch date got the go-ahead to leave her compound at 1pm, however when she called her driver – who was stuck at his fourth check point on the way to drop off someone at the airport – he simply answered the phone, “Forget about it.”
At least we still made it to the Hash that night.
ETA: Apparently the weapons search yielded an assortment of 780 weapons, and covered less than half of Juba.