Introduction to South Sudan
Described as the last unexplored region in the world, South Sudan is trough-like shaped by highlands, mountains and hills at its eastern, southern and western borders.
Covering an area of just over 330,000 sq. miles (over 660,000 sq. km), or about one third the size of Western Europe, it has numerous streams, seasonal and all-season rivers flowing into the central trough from the bordering mountains, hills and from the forests of the Congo-water divide that disappear under a canopy of greenery and the expansive vegetation of the Sudd, the largest grass swamp in the world.
The Sudd breaths in and out once a year, acknowledging both the dry and the wet seasons. Breathing in, it dries up seasonal streams, contracts in rivers and her own size and leaves behind large expands of dry savannah and scattered pools far and wide. Breathing out, she swells her own chest, assisting rivers and streams to overflow their banks and flood large expands of the savannah, thus swallowing up the scattered lakes. This way it regulates and controls the livelihood of cattle herders, fishermen and wildlife alike.
Significantly, is the White Nile, which enters South Sudan at Sudan-Uganda border town of Nimule, thundering through forested hillsides, rocks and cataracts before slowing down as it approaches to the South’s main city of Juba, Central Equatoria state.
At the town of Bor, Jonglei State it branches out and practically disappears under the Sudd to re-emerge just before flowing past the provincial city of Malakal. It flows out into the open grassland and scattered woodland, across the border into Northern Sudan, where it joins the Blue Nile at Khartoum to form the River Nile that flows on to Egypt and into the Mediterranean.
In spite of the Sudd and floating vegetation, the White Nile is navigable throughout the year from Juba to Khartoum.
The Peace Process and Political Situation
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in Nairobi, Kenya on 9th January 2005 ended the 21 year old civil war that pitied South Sudan against North Sudan.
The CPA allowed for the Constitution of the Sudan for the Interim Period. The Government of National Unity (GONU) and an appointed National Assembly was set up in Khartoum. In addition, the Interim Constitution for South Sudan was passed by an appointed Assembly of South Sudan.
The Government of South Sudan (GOSS) is established in Juba, Central Equatoria State along with the Assembly of South Sudan. The governments of the ten southern states and their parliaments are also established in the capitals of their individual states.
To date, refugees and internally displaced populations are streaming back to non-existent homes in the south while the local and international communities are doing their best to accommodate the returnees. The first official repatriation carried out by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, out of Kenya took place in December 2005.
SPLA troops have withdrawn from the North while most of the Northern troops have also bee redeployed in the North. Equal numbers from SPLA and the Northern troops have been integrated to form a national armed force; and while most of these joint integrated units (JUI) are based in the South, some of them are based in the North, mostly in Khartoum.
Landmines have been removed from the main roads linking Juba to East Africa. However, de-mining is on going around other towns and roads.
Wildlife and Tourism
With extensive forests, grassland, lakes, rivers and the Sudd, South Sudan has had extensive wildlife to rival that of East Africa. However, the civil war scattered or diminished the wildlife population, in particular the big game that was easily accessible to tourists close to the towns.
Although the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the later years of the civil war made brave attempts at the preservation of threatened species like the elephant and the rhino, a lot more remains to be done in peace time to bring their numbers up to an appreciable levels. The tourism industry needs to be established as soon as pockets of insecurity are effectively dealt with.
Caution: Although the war is officially over, security is still a priority and one should check onward travel at every stage. Many roads are still land-mined and there are still many guns in the hands of tribal groups or individuals.