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Juba Bustling Ahead of South Sudan Independence


South Sudan is set to become the world’s newest country on July 9, with Juba as its capital. Until relatively recently, Juba was a small outpost, but it is now one of Africa’s fastest-growing towns.

Snacking by poolside. Putting in a hard day's work. Washing clothes in the Nile. These are the faces of Juba.

Until the signing of the north-south peace agreement in 2005, Juba had few paved roads and buildings. But, on the eve of independence, it is a thriving capital city.

Government official William Deng Deng first came to Juba in 2006.

“When we came to Juba, we used to live in the camp here," he said. "There were no buildings. We used to live in the tents along the river in putting up small tents here and there. In a very short time, now when you look at Juba, if somebody came now and have never seen Juba, they would think that it has always been like this. It has not been like that, it just exploded.”

Juba's town square once served mainly as a transportation terminus. Now there are businesses run by people from neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia and faraway China.

The United Nations and other international agencies also have offices here, along with businesses catering to the city’s expatriate communities.

Hellen Wairimu, a Kenyan working for a Sudanese women’s group, said she finds Juba a welcoming place.

“I would really like to thank the Sudanese for accepting us working in their country," said Wairimu. "I just want to wish them a happy independence day.”

Away from the town’s core is Konyo Konyo market, where traders sell food, clothing and other goods primarily from Uganda.

Juba is a town of contrasts, ranging from the modern to the traditional. On its outskirts live many people from the Bari ethnic group. Some southern Sudanese say they think the capital should be moved because, among other reasons, the land belongs to the Bari.

But Bari businesswoman Class Anuor said she is happy with Juba’s status. “I feel proud when someone says that Juba is the capital city. We want the capital to be established. We are so tired of waiting for our independence.”

Local residents remember the struggles of the past. A prominent feature is the mausoleum containing the body of John Garang de Mabior, former head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

As Juba builds up its roads, water system and other infrastructure, there are intermittent shortages of basic goods and services. Another looming problem is garbage disposal.

Luka Deng is supervisor of the capital's "Keep Juba Clean and Green" program.

“Sanitation is very important. If the place is clean, there will be no more diseases, first of all, and there will be no flies all around, so this will reduce the disease," said Deng. "Also, to keep it green, it will also make it nice and attractive to the people who will be coming and our indigenous people in Southern Sudan in general.”

An attractiveness that many hope will be preserved in the new nation.

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