South Sudan is the newest country in Africa, bringing the continent’s country count to 54.
On July 9, 2011, the country broke away
from Sudan and gained its independence. Since then, relations with its northern neighbor have been shaky. Over the past year, violent conflicts have bubbled up, particularly on South Sudan’s northern border. In late April 2012, Sudan bombed South Sudan, further heightening border conflicts. As of May 2012, the countries seem on the brink of war. South Sudan's abundance of natural resources, including oil reserves, is pinpointed as one of the major reasons for Sudan's hostility towards its independence-seeking neighbor.
With seven national parks and 12 game reserves, the landscape of South Sudan is rich in both beauty and wildlife. South Sudan has an abundance of wildlife habitats, including wooded and grassy savannas, wetlands, grasslands, floodplains, high-altitude plateaus, and bluffs. Bandingilo National Park, established in 1992, stretches over 10,000 square kilometers. Bandingilo sits in a wooded area in the Equatoria region of South Sudan, near the White Nile River. Due to South Sudan's poverty, this park is one of the least visited in the world. However, it is home to large bird and wildlife populations. In fact, the second-largest annual animal migration on Earth takes place here, involving various species of antelope, including the reedbuck, white-eared kob, and tiang.
Though the game reserves are a must-see while in South Sudan, traveling around much of the country outside of the capital is not recommended due to civil unrest and crime. If visiting, Juba is advised as the least dangerous place to go. Juba is the capital city of South Sudan, positioned right on the White Nile River. The town is swarming with ex- pats, who support local restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Be extremely cautious, however, because the risk of violent crime is still high.
You should plan your trip depending on your weather preferences. Due to its proximity to the equator in the tropics, South Sudan has a mostly tropical climate. The heat is prevalent year-round, usually hitting highs in March and lows in July. South Sudan's capital, Juba, has a mean annual high temperature of 94.1 degrees Fahrenheit (34.5 degrees Celsius), while the average annual low temperature is 70.9 degrees Fahrenheit (21.6 degrees Celsius). The months April through October are mainly rainy for the country; May is the wettest month. On average, South Sudan receives 37.54 inches (953.7 mm) annually. December through February is a dry period.
Currency: The official currency is the South Sudanese pound.
Transportation: Presently, no commercial flights go directly into South Sudan from outside of Africa. Connections must be made in other African cities, such as Cairo, Nairobi, Entebbe, and Addis Ababa.
Passports/Visas: Valid passports are required to enter South Sudan. It is not requisite that current travelers obtain visas before arrival in the country. (Nevertheless, check before going, because this could change). However, it is recommended for travelers to attain a travel document from the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) mission in Nairobi or Washington, D.C., in advance of entering South Sudan. Otherwise, some airlines will not allow the travelers to board a plane to Juba. We are currently unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for South Sudan.
For Americans traveling abroad, the U.S. Department of State advises you to regularly check http://travel.state.gov to stay informed about worldwide caution, travel alerts, and warnings. Information about passports and other safe travel information can also be found here.
Presently, all travelers are advised to have extreme caution when in this country. The civil unrest is very high. The South Sudan government has a restricted ability to deter crime or offer security to travelers outside of Juba, the capital city. Even in Juba, the risk of violent crime is elevated. Report all instances of crime to the South Sudanese Police. All travelers should be fully aware of their government's standpoint on traveling to South Sudan.
The U.S. Embassy in Juba has imposed a curfew from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. According to the U.S. Department of State, U.S. government personnel cannot travel outside the boundaries of Juba without being granted permission ahead of time. When traveling any time during the night, they must be in armored government vehicles. The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to leave the border states.
Similar warnings are echoed by other country governments. For example, the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs strongly cautions its citizens against travel to South Sudan because it deems South Sudan too dangerous, unstable, and unpredictable. They also advise anyone who is currently there to leave.
Disease: Malaria is prevalent throughout the country. This particular strain of malaria has developed resistance to chloroquine and can therefore be fatal. Routine immunizations for other diseases are recommended. Medical facilities in South Sudan are below Western standards.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has created a security ratings system called the Ibrahim Index, wherein scores are based on each country’s quality of government. Before traveling to South Sudan or anywhere on the continent, check the index and do your research. Since South Sudan is a new country, ratings in the Ibrahim index are not available as of the 2011 year-end reports.
Prior to the state’s division, Sudan was the largest country in Africa. Sudan, however, has been experiencing major civil conflicts for over half a century. The first civil war lasted from 1955 to 1972. The assumed peace was short-lived, and the second civil war erupted about a decade later, stretching from 1983 to 2005.
January of 2005 marked the climax of the agreements signed between the Government of Sudan in the North and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in the South, which were intended to end the Second Sudanese Civil War. This Comprehensive Peace Agreement had many components from agreements previously forged, ranging from principles of governance to power and wealth sharing to ceasefire and security arrangements. The comprehensive agreement, signed January 9, 2005, included a timetable for a future Southern Sudan independence referendum.
The years following were still rife with conflict between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the national government. In October of 2007, the SPLM charged that the national government had broken the CPA agreement by refusing to remove over 15,000 troops from the southern oilfields and by not following the protocol on the resolution of the conflict in Abyei. The SPLM therefore withdrew from the national government for over two months, until an agreement was determined by which Khartoum in the North and Juba in the South would rotate between themselves the national seat of government every three months.
A South Sudanese independence referendum was held the week of January 9, 2011. The results showed that 98.83 percent of the southern Sudan population voted in favor of breaking away from Sudan to become a fully independent country. On July 9, 2011, South Sudan officially became a sovereign state, making it the 54th African country.