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Country Reports

South Sudan Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Foreign travelers interested in visiting this young country (independent from Sudan since 2011; around 12 million inhabitants) should take note of the complex security situation that is still characterized by tension and uncertainty. Only strictly essential travel to the capital Juba should be considered.

AREAS TO AVOID

Many Western governments formally advise their citizens against traveling throughout the country, including to Juba. 

TERRORISM

Although there is no proven threat, porous borders with neighboring countries affected by terrorist threats may encourage groups operating in the region to transit through South Sudan, and there is the possibility that they may use it as a safe haven.

SECURITY

Ethnic clashes are regularly reported in the country, especially in and around Wau, in the Bahr El Ghazal region, and in the states of Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity, and Lakes.

On December 11, 2017, the government declared a state of emergency set to remain in effect for three months for Lakes state following violent clashes between militias from the Rup and Pakram ethnic groups (more than 170 killed). Security forces were ordered to disarm the local militias and restore order, but further flare-ups remain possible.  

Since March 2017, clashes between government forces and rebel groups have also occurred in Jonglei state, notably in Pibor (east), as well as in the city of Wau (center-west), the city of Yei (southwest), and in Upper Nile state (northeast), forcing thousands of civilians to flee.

A unilateral ceasefire was declared by the president on March 27, 2017, but the violence continued. A second ceasefire was subsequently declared on May 22 in order for peace talks with rebel groups to resume, bringing about an end to the civil war. On June 4, an agreement was finally signed between the SPLA rebels and the government, establishing a ceasefire in Yei.

The border with Sudan is also a contentious area. Occasional military engagement between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the People's Liberation Army of Sudan, as well as numerous militias groups, make the region particularly dangerous. The anti-Sudanese rebel militias are known to train, seek refuge, and conduct operations against the SAF from the northern states of South Sudan.

Travelers present in the capital should continue to maintain a high degree of vigilance at all times; fighting between the militias of president Kiir and those of his rival, former President Riek Machar, may flare up at any time. It is advised to remain extremely cautious and to avoid unnecessary travel in the capital.

The South Sudanese government often struggles to assert its control over the military. Members of the government army are sometimes directly responsible for violence carried out against civilians and represent a real threat to national stability (corruption, violence). According to the August 4, 2016 statement by the UN High Commissioner, South Sudanese soldiers are guilty of crimes (rape, murder, looting) in the recent clashes.

Reoccurring attacks on humanitarian workers have also been reported, with an observable increase in incidents since March 2017. Since the beginning of 2017, at least 12 NGO employees have been killed and eight humanitarian convoys attacked. A total of 82 humanitarian workers have been killed since the start of the civil war in 2013.

KIDNAPPING

Kidnapping cases have been on the rise in South Sudan since March 2017, particularly against petroleum and humanitarian workers. In March, two Indian engineers were abducted, as well as eight local employees of an American NGO and four oil sector employees. All were released a few days later.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

A violent civil war broke out in late 2013 pitting supporters of President Salva Kiir (of Dinka ethnicity) against supporters of his former vice president, Machar (of the Nuer ethnicity).

Although a peace deal was signed on August 26, 2015 by both sides, sporadic fighting occurred until April 2016, when Machar came back from his stronghold in the North, where he led reprisals during the civil war. After returning to Juba, Machar was integrated into the transitional government as vice-president, a position he already held between July 2011 and 2013.

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of independence, July 8, 2016, violence broke out in the capital, triggered by rumors of the kidnapping of Machar by men loyal to the President. These rumors caused clashes in Juba between forces loyal to the President and former rebels loyal to Machar. The fighting, which lasted four days, until July 11, 2016, caused the death of 300 civilians and the displacement of 60,000 people to neighboring countries.

Following clashes, President Kiir decided to replace Vice President Machar, who left the capital, as well as other ministers close to Machar, reigniting tensions. Following recent clashes, the UN has negotiated with Kiir to deploy a regional protection force of 4,000 men to secure the territory, with a reinforced mandate enabling the use of force. The first contingent was deployed in early May.

Anti-government demonstrations also frequently take place, notably in Juba. In early May 2017, magistrates went on strike to denounce difficult working conditions and low wages. Around the same time, a student demonstration denouncing disastrous economic and security conditions in the country degenerated into violent outbreaks with the police, resulting in the deaths of three students.

It is advised to be aware of the changing political situation, respect any curfews in place, and always avoid gatherings.

Legislative elections, initially scheduled for June 2015, have been postponed until 2018.

SOCIOECONOMIC RISKS

South Sudan's economic situation has significantly deteriorated since its independence. Although the country is rich in hydrocarbons, the fall in oil prices and production over the past two years drastically reduced government budgetary revenues, largely dependent on oil. In addition, the country faces a significant inflation rate (+110 percent for December 2015) driven by rising food prices, causing more than a third of the population to experience severe food shortages. Conflicts, but also climate change, make agriculture production difficult. According to the government and the UN, the population is at risk of a full-blown famine; more than 5 million people will face a lack of food in the coming months, particularly in the north (Unity state). At least 100 hundred thousand people in the region are at risk of starvation.

South Sudan is facing a major humanitarian crisis as a result of continuous conflicts. The civil war, which started in 2013, has produced more than 3.5 million refugees, of which 1.7 million have fled the country and 1.9 million are internally displaced. The situation is even more alarming as aid delivery is undermined by violence (looting, assault) against aid workers and reserves. 

The government of Khartoum (Sudan) set up a corridor on April 27, 2017 to deliver humanitarian aid to those affected by the famine. The corridor connects the city of Al-Ubayyid in central Sudan to the town of Aweil in the state of Bahr al-Gazal in South Sudan.

CRIME

Criminal activity is significant throughout the country, especially in Juba, where it is increasing. This is due to the chronic political instability, failing infrastructures, and latent corruption. In Juba, armed robberies, burglaries, carjacking, extortion, and assaults are common, including during the daytime. Foreigners are often specifically targeted by armed bandits, who do not hesitate to attack neighborhoods controlled by security companies. Assaults also occur in vicinities frequented by expatriates such as banks or restaurants.

The situation is largely the same outside the capital, where road banditry and ambushes are frequent.

HEALTH

Prior to departure, travelers should purchase a health insurance covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being mandatory in case of an important or urgent health issue.

A certificate of immunization against yellow fever is not mandatory to enter the territory, however, the World Health organization (WHO) advises all travelers to get vaccinated prior to departure. Malaria is endemic in South Sudan and it is recommended to take individual protection measures and suitable treatment. The number of malaria cases has increased in 2016. Other mosquito-borne disease such as dengue or rift valley fever are present. In Jonglei and Upper Nile states, the WHO reported a resurgence of visceral leishmaniasis (kala-azar or black fever), transmitted by flies. The use of repellents is, again, recommended.

Tap water is not safe for consumption and diarrheal diseases are frequent in the country. South Sudan is also in the midst of a cholera outbreak. According to UNICEF, as of August 2, 2016, 719 cases have been reported, including 21 deaths. The most affected areas were Jubek (Central Equatoria state), including Gorom, Khor William, Juba Na Bari, and Giada. It is recommended to only drink filtered bottled water, to ensure food is properly cooked, and wash hands several times a day. A cholera epidemic has affected the country since June 2016; as of early June 2017, more than 8160 cases have been reported.

To avoid the risk of parasitic infection, it is advised to avoid contact with stagnant water (e.g. ponds, lakes). Walking barefoot outdoors is not recommended.

Moreover, it is necessary to take precautions against HIV/AIDS, which is highly prevalent throughout the country.

Meanwhile, vaccines against measles and meningitis are recommended as numerous cases of those diseases were reported.

TRANSPORTATION

South Sudan is serviced by a few airlines, including Kenya Airways, Jetlink, Fly Dubai, and Ethiopia Airlines. However, all domestic flights and flights to and from Khartoum (Sudan) are operated by airlines on the EU's blacklist (Marsland, Sudan Airways, Tarco Air, and Sun Air).

The country only possesses around 100 kilometers of paved roads (essentially all located in or around the capital) and dirt roads, which comprise the vast majority of all roads present in the country, are often severely damaged during the rainy season.

Public transportation exists but is not very reliable and is often unsafe. The use of moto-taxis (boda-boda) is not advised.

No trains currently operate within the country.

It is advised to be cautious on the road, as South Sudanese citizens do not always respect road safety rules. Accidents and incidents are frequent.

The danger of traveling by road is increased by the non-observance of traffic rules by other drivers, the poor maintenance of vehicles, the poor quality of roads, and the lack of healthcare facilities. Moreover, all night travel should be avoided due to the lack of public lighting and traffic signs, as well as the presence of armed individuals stopping vehicles to rob their occupants. Outside major cities, all travel should be conducted with all-terrain vehicles (4x4) and with adequate supplies of water, food, and fuel. Travelers should also ensure that the vehicle contains mechanical spare parts (wheels, cables, etc.) and have effective means of telecommunication. Checkpoints are frequently set up at night, which may increase risks at any time (threats, extortion, etc.).

The Juba-Yei, Juba-Torit, and Juba-Nimole highways, are particularly dangerous due to the presence of armed men known for attacking civilians.

NATURAL RISKS

South Sudan suffers from both droughts and floods, the latter sometimes makes access to roads impossible.

Moreover, some seismic fault lines cross South Sudan, however, earthquakes are rare.

LEGAL

Finally, photography is strictly controlled and requires the purchase of a permit. Photographing certain entities (e.g. government buildings, infrastructure, the army, police) is prohibited.

Infrastructure is not yet in place for credit card or check use. Payments must be made in cash, preferably in US dollars.

Climate

South Sudan has a mostly tropical climate. Conditions are hot all year round, with average temperatures ranging from 21°C to 35°C. The rainy season lasts from May until October, during which period flooding is not uncommon.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +211 Police: 999 Fire Dept.: 999 Ambulance: 999

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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