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Juba fact file

Akim Mugisa and Pascal Ladu
Named after a local hero whose name was mispronounced by colonialists, South Sudan’s capital Juba has come a long way.
1.02.2016  |  Juba, South Sudan
Map of Juba, South Sudan. (photo: MiCT | The Niles)
Map of Juba, South Sudan. (photo: MiCT | The Niles)

As the first capital of South Sudan, the city has entered another chapter of its turbulent history.

1 Juba was traditionally the home of the Bari tribe, one of the ethnic groups in the state of Central Equatoria.

2 Between 1899 and Sudan’s independence in 1956, Juba was ruled by the Anglo-Egyptian colonial administration.

3 Juba was named after Jubek, one of the influential Bari inhabitants the British nominated as a community leader. Many say that the British named the area after this charismatic chief but mispronounced his name. Monuments depicting Jubek wearing a sombrero and armed with a bow and arrow tower above vehicles and pedestrians at a number of road junctions, including Malakia, Kator, and Konyokonyo.

4 Juba was established in 1922 when it was a small town hosting Greek traders who supplied the British army with basic supplies like food. Located on the White Nile, Juba then had a population of around 2,000 people, mainly from the Bari group.

5 The Greek traders contributed towards the architectural designs of some buildings on Juba market and the Greek Quarters, which were named by the British. They constructed stone buildings including the Paradise Hotel (5a), the Nile Commercial Bank (5b), and the Buffalo Commercial Bank (5c).

6 The Juba Hotel was built in the mid-1930s and is currently being revamped into a vestar hotel.

7 In 1947 saw the Juba Conference, a meeting of Southern Sudanese chiefs and local politicians. Local commentators like Jacob Lupai say the historic gathering discussed the demand for an autonomous South Sudan through separation (Kokora) from the north. The chiefs also rejected attempts by the British to annex the then southern part of Sudan to neighbouring Uganda.

8 After the 1972 Addis Ababa agreement, which temporarily stopped 16 years of civil war, Juba became the capital of the Equatoria region. The population swelled fast as people moved to Juba from elsewhere in the country. The current ministries (8a), parliament (8b) and other institutions like Radio Juba (8c) date from this time.

9 The second civil war broke out in 1983 and the city’s residents scattered. Juba became a garrison town for the Sudanese government. Institutions like the University of Juba housed government troops. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in 2005 by the Khartoum government and former rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, which ended the bloody conflict.

10 Juba became the interim seat and capital of the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan.

11 Peace enabled an economic boom in the city. Thousands of traders and economic migrants arrived, mostly from northern Sudan, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Kenya. According to the 2008 Sudan census, Juba’s population reached 368,436.

12 With South Sudanese independence in 2011, Juba was the focus of festivities as the new capital. The current mayor is Christopher Sera no Wani Swaka, the second mayor since independence. The city council is lead by the mayor.

13 Juba currently has three payams, or districts. There are a number of residential areas, mostly without clean water or electricity. The city has few tarmac roads and most residential areas are difficult to access by car, especially during the rainy season.

14 The Juba Bridge is the gateway for traffic to and from neighbouring East African nations.

15 Juba has a number of markets including the Juba Market (15a), Konyokonyo (15b), Jebel (15c), Customs (15d), and the Gumbo market. Ugandans often work in the markets alongside Sudanese and Eritreans.

16 Several regional and international businesses have established a presence in Juba, including the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and the Kenya Commercial Bank.

17 Among other large firms is the South Sudan Beverages Company Limited, manufacturer of the beer brands Nile and White Bull Lager (now closed).

18 Juba has a number of hotels which charge from US$150 to US$200 per night.

19 New buildings are mushrooming in Juba but accommodation remains very expensive. In the residential areas, many people live under grass thatch roofs in makeshift, muddy houses, leaving them vulnerable to armed robbers at night.

20 In December 2013, fighting broke out between rival groups of presidential guards in Juba, sparking fights and insecurity in the capital city.

21 Despite these challenges, Juba continues to expand. Officials say the city is spreading to absorb traditional villages that were once far from the city centre. Its growth has surprised visitors, including Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. “When I came to Juba sometime back, the city ended at that first hill over there. But today I saw new houses,” he told people during the celebrations of the third independence anniversary in 2014. “This development is not done by the government. It is by you, the people of South Sudan.”

22 Local government official Lako says security is Juba’s main problem and deters foreigners from moving there. “During the day time, there is not much problem but at night, people live in fear. You don’t know what might happen to you,” he says.

23 A new police emergency call number 777 was launched in 2014 in a bid to make the city safer but gun shots continue to ring out every night, especially in areas not passable by police cars.

24 Late in 2014, the City Council started installing solar-powered traffic lights, with help from the Chinese government. They will stand on 15 roundabouts and junctions in Juba.

25 Since independence, the national government has aimed to make Ramciel the capital instead of Juba, on the grounds that it is more centrally located. These plans, along with other infrastructure and development projects, have been put on hold because of ongoing violence across the country.

This article is part of:
On The Move: Experience is a solid walking stick


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