The following is a summary of the larger South Sudan – Country Risk Assessment that I wrote in October 2015. Please note the situation within South Sudan is very fluid and subject to immediate change. Take for example the conflict that errupted in December 2013, no-one saw saw that coming. If your planning to visit drop me a line, maybe I can help.
The Republic of South Sudan (RSS) has been at war almost continuously with itself and its former masters in Khartoum since the 1970s. Despite its independence – gained from Sudan in 2011 -the world’s youngest state has been unable to shed the burden of conflict. In December 2013 the President Salva KIIR and his then vice President Riek MACHAR became embroiled in an argument, the result of which was fracturing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the commencement of the civil war which still exists until today.
The country is deeply divided on ethical and tribal grounds, the two most prominent tribes being the Dinka and the Neur – the President belonging to the former and his former Vice President the latter. The main opposition to the incumbent regime is Machar’s SPLM – In Opposition (IO), however there are a number of other insurgent groups who also wish to overthrow what many believe is an inherently corrupt and ineffectual government.
RSS is splint into ten states; however at the time of writing this assessment the President is trying to pass legislation which will allow the ten existing states to be sub divided to allow 18 new states to be established – the suggested new states are formed around ethnic and tribal boundaries. This will mean a total of 28 states.
The official language of the country is English – but as with most countries in Africa, tribal languages and dialects are common, with a further 60 languages being used. Juba- Arabic is the main language used in the capital and is a hybrid of Arabic. The last census report conducted in 2008 by the Sudanese government put the population at 8.23m; however this figure is disputed by officials within RSS who posit that the figure is much greater. Christians make up the majority of the population; however there is a large community of Muslims put between 18-20%.
The country suffers from an endemic lack of social-cohesion which has resulted in the 20-month civil war. In attempt to broker a deal between the warring factions – and to reverse the difficult political and economic situation – a peace treaty was signed in August 2015, one of the outcomes of which was a ceasefire. Although heralded initially as a success, hostilities began almost immediately, with each side blaming the other as attacks resumed. Another result of the treaty was reduced support within the government for the President as those officials opposed to the treaty, began to voice their discontent. Within the last ten days the President announced the dissolution of the SPLM, with all appointments being declared null-and-void. This is not the first time for this to happen, as President Kiir took the same course of action in July 2013 – commentators linking this incident to the fracture within the SPLM in 2013 which led to the civil war.
The overall political situation is uncertain, with the Presidents recent actions of adjusting state boundaries and the dissolution of the SPLM, only adding to what has become a tense and unpredictable state of affairs.
Despite its rich natural resources and the third biggest oil reserves in Sub Saharan Africa, to all intent and purpose, RSS is bankrupt. It is reported that due to the fall in the global price of oil; the royalties it pays to Sudan; and the actual cost of getting oil out of the ground, the country is producing oil at a loss. This burden on financial resources as well as large amounts of currency disappearing from the central banking system has created a very sorry state of affairs. Petrol and other necessities are in short supply and inflation is rampant. At the current time the exchange rate is $1 = 20SSP, a nearly 70% increase year on year. Experts are warning that without intervention, the South Sudanese Pound is going in the exact same direction as the Zimbabwean Dollar.
The landlocked RSS shares its border with; Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. Entry is permissible through the various ground border control points; however ingress for international visitors who choose to fly is through the countries only the only international airport is located in the capital Juba. Visas must be obtained prior to landing; are normally for an initial one month; with the application being supported by an invitation from the host organization. Passport photographs with a white background are required. There is a large list hotels to choose from, with the more expensive options providing adequate standards of security which reach UN, MOSS compliance. There are a number of domestic airlines that operate between the state capitals and large towns, flight being the primary option. Ground travel is problematic and requires specific assessments as permissibility of routes is highly dynamic.
The lack of investment has resulted in poor health and education provision. Roads are in a bad state of repair the majority unpaved that become challenging to reconnoiter during the rainy season. City electricity in the capital is very limited with no provision in the smaller towns, power being supplied by generators.
The main threats within RSS are based on socio-economic and inter-tribal/ethnical factors. Criminality revolving around theft has increased dramatically over the last four months – direct causation being linked to the worsening financial situation. International actors have become the main targets of the crime wave, with both locations and personnel being regularly targeted. The outcome of internal issues within the country, be they tribal, ethnical of political do not manifest themselves in violence towards the International community, of which the population is normally accepting. The last international death was in early 2015 that was linked to criminal activity.
Armed Robbery/Compound Attacks
Robbery supported by guns, knives etc., is now commonplace with several attacks taking place on a weekly basis. East African businessmen are a prime target, with attacks against Eritrean, Egyptian, and Ethiopian resulting in the theft of large amounts of money and death to the victims. Attacks on compounds in both daylight and darkness happen regularly especially in the capital, Juba, with the TOMPING Area being statistically the most common target. It is thought that robberies in this part of the city are more common because of the density of NGO offices and accommodation based there, coupled with poor infrastructure and lack of policing, which provides armed criminals with a considerable degree of freedom of movement.
As with most large African cities street crime is a constant with bag snatching a common occurrence. The theft normally takes place in collusion with the local motorbike taxis – boda boda’s – that are often used as get-away transport. Visitors are advised to avoid local markets and areas with a high population density, and keep valuables out of sight and well secure.
Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs)
Non RSS residents require a RSS license to drive. Although traffic rules do exist, their seen more as a ‘suggestion’ rather than strict protocol, for example; although one-way streets are common, one-way traffic is less so. Infringements by Internationals drivers however, will be dealt far more strictly by the abundant traffic police. Outside of the urban areas roads are mostly tracks with large pot holes – caused by the dramatic rainfall. For trips into the country side visitors should ensure that their vehicles are roadworthy and carry sufficient equipment to sustain over rough terrain. Two vehicles moves are suggested in some areas with other more turbulent routes being designated ‘black’ – to dangerous. Road status is dynamic. Before moving up to date information should be gleaned from the UN, and or other ‘in-country’ sources. RTAs – as usual – are one of the main causes of injury to International staff. (See medical section for emergency treatment).
Although the practice of carjacking occurs predominantly in the countryside, there have also been incidents in urban areas including Juba. Newer vehicles stand more of a risk of being stolen. The act rarely ends in death of Internationals, although members of the local population are might well be beaten of worse.
The normal demonstrations are pro-government and go off without incident – as would be expected. Anti-government demonstrations however are not common and would be severely dealt with by the incumbent regime. They would occur mostly in areas with less government control and would be associated with violence of some kind, whether inflicted by the demonstrators or the security forces. The risk of demonstrations becoming ‘flash points’ for wider discord is a very real possibility.
There are over ten armed groups within RSS, their geographical location dependant on tribal allegiances. Some work with the government and others with the IO forces, their allegiance often switching as deals are conducted. Some of the groups are used by the government as proxy forces, conducting horrific attacks on villages and IDPs, with a significant loss of life with not even women and children being spared. The main motivation is financial; however a political agenda is often referred to as a form of legitimization.
There is no specific threat to the international community in the form of kidnapping, with only one case being reported since 2012. It remains as an identified threat however as this might change at any time. The increase of kidnapping is a global trend, with International being looked on as a commodity to trade for hard cash. In a region where kidnap for ransom is an established practice, there is no reason at all why this highly lucrative form of raising large amounts of cash does not transfer.
Sexual violence directed by belligerent actors within RSS has been a constant throughout the civil war and into history. As law and order brakes-down, and criminal activity becomes the norm, sexual violence is now being seen more often against the International community, with a number of serious sexual assaults occurring in the last few months. Advice to foreign workers would be to: limit their exposure by being not staying out late: be selective in going to locations: travel in numbers: and in general just, be sensible.
Yellow fever vaccination is required as a condition of entry. Other vaccinations should also be obtained before arrival. South Sudan is renowned for malaria with the areas mosquitoes able to deliver some of the most virulent kinds. Prophylaxis are highly recommended, the use of: dark clothing, long sleeve shirts, long trousers, socks and any other clothing worn to reduce skin exposure again highly recommended. Sleeping nets and insect repelant are essential travel items. The country is prone to out brakes of cholera and other water-borne diseases.
None of the SOUTH SUDAN hospitals carry a ‘Tier One’ status. There are however several clinics that provide trauma care. Any serious injury/illness would need CASEVAC (casualty evacuation) to neighboring countries – Uganda or Kenya dependent on the medical insurance provider. In the event of CASEVA it should be noted that Juba international airport is closed at 18.00hrs each evening and due to building works does not open on the weekend.
Corruption is endemic within RSS, with the practice being the norm. This will range for small bribes from police/military officers at check points, through the entire spectrum of society business an bank officials and of course the government.
a. Armed Robbery/Compound Attacks
b. Petty Crime
c. Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs)
d. Car Jacking
e. Civil Unrest/Demonstrations
f. Armed Conflict
h. Sexual violence
I’ve given you a summary, the full report goes into far more detail. Hope it was useful.
Richard C Pendry
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.richardcpendry.com | Twitter: @RichardCPendry