LANGUAGE: ENGLISH, ARABIC & INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES
RELIGION: CHRISTIANITY & ANIMISM
CURRENCY: SOUTH SUDANESE POUND
POPULATION SIZE: 11,15 MILLION
CALLING CODE: +211
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Only two years after its independence in 2011, South Sudan plunged into a devastating and atrocious civil war marked by ethnic massacres, the displacements of millions of people, widespread rape and the deployment of child soldiers. The country’s civil war mainly revolved around the rivalry between two members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar. After Kiir fired Machar mid-2013, clashes between rival military forces quickly spread to the rest of the country. Most warring parties have recently resigned the 2015-peace agreement and Kiir has been sworn in as vice president in February 2020. Militias, which were excluded from this peace deal, have signed a ceasefire agreement in January 2020 which certainly reduces the likelihood of local armed conflict. The current security situation is however extremely fragile and can deteriorate quickly with little or no warning. If fighting starts again in Juba, it is likely to spread rapidly to the rest of the country. Despite the recent peace deal and locally agreed cease fire, the risk of inter-tribal or communal violence remains high as well as violent confrontations between local militias.
South Sudan is notorious for its high level of violent crime, particularly Juba. Acts of criminality range from petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, to kidnapping, armed robbery, car-jacking, sexual assault and armed home invasions. Criminals also target places known to be frequently visited by foreigners, such as hotels and restaurant. There have also been reports of drive-by thefts by individuals or groups on motorbikes. Due to the recent civil war, many civilians are in the possession of weapons, munition and explosives causing most crimes to be accompanied by serious violence. If you fall victim to armed robbery, do not resist and directly hand over your valuables as forceful resistance often leads to more violence. The South Sudanese government has not sufficient capacity to deter crime and to uphold the rule of law. In fact, government security forces are often complicit in robberies and travelers should not necessarily expect support. To mitigate the risk of violent crime, it is highly advised to not travel alone or to remote places and to stay inside after sunset.
Traveling to regions at the border of Sudan, such as Upper Nile, Unity, Northern and Western Bar el Ghazal states is strongly discouraged. Parts of South Sudan’s border with Sudan are still disputed. Areas within 40 kilometer from the border are particularly dangerous due to the deployment of military forces which might engage in armed incursions and violence. A interstate conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is nevertheless rather unlikely due to oil interests of both countries The two countries recently extended the oil transit agreement until 2020 which shows their intention to maintain good bilateral relations. It is also recommended to avoid South Sudan’s border areas with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. The Lord Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony sometimes commits cross-border attacks from the DRC and CAR into South Sudan. The states Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, Warrap and Lakes frequently suffers from inter-communal violence over land ownership. The clashes are often accompanied by cattle rustling which give rise to abductions and reprisal attacks. The southern Equatorian region is also extremely unstable and non-essential travel is highly advised against.
South Sudan remains one of the most dangerous countries for aid workers. All warring parties are guilty of attacking humanitarian aid works which includes incidents of violence, intimidation, arbitrary detentions and kidnappings. Even though violence against aid workers has decreased in recent years, all humanitarian aid workers should be extremely cautious at all times. The situation near camps for displaced people, also called Protection of Civilian sites, is tensed and should be avoided.
Corruption is rampant and the government does not actively combat corrupt practices. Regional terrorist groups are limitedly active in South Sudan. Terrorist attacks are mostly carried out by local militias. Government facilities are highly secured which may lead terrorists to attack easier targets such as housing compounds. Other targets could include places popular with travelers, such as hotels, clubs, restaurants and bars, and transport hubs, such as airports and bus stations, international organizations’ buildings, oil installations, schools, markets, religious sites and large events. If you are caught up in a terrorist attack, it is important to leave as possible as you can due to the risk of secondary attacks.
Due to poor driving conditions and standards, traffic in South Sudan is not safe and prone to accidents. The use of public transport such as small buses, vans or motorbike taxis called “boda-bodas” should be avoided due to the regular occurrence of accidents, especially on the Juba-Nimule road, the poor condition of vehicles and the high risk of robbery and physical assault against foreigners.
It is strongly recommended to hire a private, four wheel drive vehicle. Most roads are unpaved and badly maintained. During the rainy season from April to November, heavy rain falls causes these dirt roads to become impassable. Additionally, most streets are very limitedly lit and many vehicles do not have lights. Traffic is particularly chaotic as roads are not only used by motorized vehicles but also by donkey-carts and rickshaw-style cabs. Be also aware of pedestrians and herds of animals which can unexpectedly cross or wander near roads. It is important to drive in an defensive manner and to minimize the likelihood of an accident. When you become involved in an accident, report the incident to the nearest police station as soon as possible and wait inside your vehicle until the police arrives. While the South Sudanese are generally polite, their politeness can quickly turn into violence in case of an (traffic) incident. If this happens, leave the scene calmly and proceed to the nearest police station. When going to remote areas, only travel during daylight hours and in convoys of multiple vehicles to protect yourself against the threat of roadside criminals. Make sure to carry enough spare tires, fuel and provisions as service stations can be located far from each other and fuel shortages are to be expected when tensions between Sudan and South Sudan are rising. Drive with doors locked and windows closed to prevent carjacking.
Both official and unofficial roadblocks are common throughout South Sudan. These checkpoints are often manned by armed men and demand money from travelers to pass through, especially after dark. Instances of physical abuse at these checkpoints, especially against women, have been reported. Approach all checkpoints with caution, especially after dark or in times of heightened political or military tension. Do not try to evade these checkpoints. Be aware that even stops at checkpoints operated by the South Sudanese government can turn hostile or violent. Road robberies can occur everywhere in the country, also on routes to the Ugandan and Kenyan border and in the Equatorian provinces. Landmines and other unexploded remnants of war are still present throughout South Sudan, especially outside Juba. Stay on main roads and only use paths which are cleared by a qualified de-mining authority.
Juba International Airport can be reached from Entebbe, Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Khartoum. Domestic airports do not always have asphalted runways and can therefore become inoperable for several days in case of heavy rainfall. International airports in South Sudan sometimes suspend operations in times of heightened political tensions with little or no warning. It cannot be guaranteed that domestic flights are in accordance with international safety standards and regulations.
Medical facilities are extremely limited in South Sudan, especially outside Juba, and hygienic conditions of health centers are poor. Upfront cash payments are often required prior to treatment or admission to a hospital. There is a widespread lack of basic medical equipment and medicines are extremely short in supply. Be aware that the selling of counterfeit medicines is common in South Sudan. Most medical procedures require evacuation to Nairobi and Kampala. During the rainy season, flights are often cancelled and Juba International Airport closes at 6pm which might impede a necessary medical evacuation.
There is a substantial risk of malaria in central and southern South Sudan all year around. Other insect-borne diseases, such as dengue, yellow fever, filariasis, leishmaniasis, river blindness and the African sleeping sickness occur as well. Take anti-malaria medication and protect yourself against mosquito bites both during day- and night time by using mosquito repellent and wearing body covering clothing. The consumption of contaminated food and water can cause diseases like travelers’ diarrhea, cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. While South Sudan is currently not infected with polio, outbreaks may occur. Travelers who have close contact with the local population, such as health workers, are at risk of contracting meningococcal disease. Always take of personal, food and water hygiene. Some diseases, like Ebola and rabies, are transmitted from animals to humans and travelers are highly advised to avoid all contact with animals. While Ebola has not yet occurred in South Sudan, neighboring countries have reported cases. Travelers are screened for Ebola upon arrival at Juba International airport and several land entry points. HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B are prevalent in South Sudan and contact with blood and other people’s bodily fluids should be avoided.
South Sudan is occasionally hit by severe weather conditions such as sand- and dust storms and droughts. The country’s northern region can experience extremely warm weather from January until March with day temperatures sometimes exceeding 50˚C. The rain season, which last from April until November, is especially notorious for its heavy rain fall. Consequential flash flooding can cause certain areas to become inaccessible. Extreme weather conditions can lead to shortages of water and food, road and communication infrastructure to be damaged and the spread of diseases.
Respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions. South Sudan is a conservative society and any visitors are strongly advised to act and dress appropriately, especially in rural areas. Women should wear long trousers or skirts, long sleeved tops and no low or exposing necklines. Men are expected to dress conservatively as well. A permit granted by the Ministry of Interior is required to make both professional and amateur photographs. Even with a permit, caution is required when taking pictures as individuals have been harassed and assaulted for using a camera. Do not make pictures of government buildings, vehicles or persons, objects of military importance and infrastructure. South Sudan’s security forces may engage in extra-judicial activities. Arbitrary arrests and harassment of foreigners have been reported and it is highly advised to be cautious of your surroundings at all times. Legal proceedings can be lengthy and subjective, and consular officials of your home country may not always be able to assist you. South Sudan is a cash based society and credit and debit cards as well as traveler’s cheques and are generally not accepted. Payments have to be made in the local currency or US dollars dated from 2009 onwards. There are no international ATMs in South Sudan including Juba.
The risk of crime and physical harassment against women is not exceptionally high under the condition that usual precautions are being taken. Female travelers should bring enough oral contraceptives and menstrual hygiene products as these are scarce.
South Sudan is a conservative society in which homosexuality is forbidden and discrimination against LGTBIs widespread. While two men holding hands is perfectly acceptable and normal, LGTBI-travelers are urged to refrain from any public display of affection in order to prevent discrimination and harassment by the public and police.
» Obtain a valid visa before you travel to South Sudan, purchasing a visa upon arrival is not possible
» Be up-to-date with routine vaccinations and boosters
» Get additional recommended vaccinations
» Purchase a comprehensive health insurance that covers travel in South Sudan, overseas medical costs and medical evacuation
» Take a first aid kit
» Bring all necessary preventive medication
» Keep a copy of important documents, such as passport, bank cards, health insurance card and medical overview online
» Bring enough cash
» Prevent predictable behavior, alternate travel routes and times on a daily basis
» Always keep a high level of situational awareness. Be alert to anyone following your vehicle and be extra careful when leaving a vehicle
» Strictly comply to instructions given by local authorities
» Stay on well-used paths and roads
» Avoid places known to be often visited by Westerners and public buildings such as hospitals, government buildings, airports, military facilities, transport hubs, hotels and malls
» Avoid mass and politically motivated meetings
» Monitor local news outlets to stay up-to-date about political developments
» If you happen to be in an area affected by violence, leave as soon as possible. If safely leaving is not possible, find a safe spot, remain indoors and follow local advice.
» Always have an adequate stock of water, food, fuel, cash and medicines
» Only drink bottled or boiled water, only eat well-cooked food, peel your own vegetables and fruit, and avoid unpasteurized dairy products
» Be aware and respect local customs and traditions, dress modestly and behave discreetly
» Avoid the use of non-sterile medical equipment
» Avoid all contact with sick people and animals
» Do not swim in fresh water
» Wash your hands regularly with soap
» Avoid unprotected sexual intercourse
» Monitor local weather reports closely and take necessary preparations on time
» Consult a doctor immediately if you become ill after returning from South Sudan
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