Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Juba does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED JUBA AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s South Sudan-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Reliable, official statistics on crime are not available in South Sudan. U.S. Embassy Juba relies on the reporting of the UN, other Embassies, and NGOs to obtain limited statistics/reports of crimes.
Since July 2016, South Sudan has experienced a rise in crime, especially in Juba. This trend can be directly attributed to continued political instability, poor infrastructure, widespread corruption, and a growing economic crisis. Years of civil war, tribal conflict, and political unrest have provided the population with ready access to weapons and the knowledge of how to use them. Gunfire, especially at night, is not uncommon.
Violent crimes (murder, armed robbery, home invasions, cattle raiding, kidnapping). In Juba, the most frequently reported violent crimes include: armed robbery, home invasions, and carjackings. Neighborhoods where government leaders, business professionals, NGO staff, and foreign diplomats reside are not immune from criminal activity. Armed robberies, compound invasions, and carjackings are the most common type of violent crime to affect expatriates. These crimes generally occur during nighttime hours and often involve multiple perpetrators. In 2016, the frequency of such crimes during daylight hours increased due to worsening economic conditions. In some cases, perpetrators wear host nation security service uniforms, carry military weapons, and use the ruse of legitimate check points or official business to stop individuals or gain access to compounds. Those traveling alone or in small groups during late evening hours (especially those walking) are often the target of armed robberies. Home/compound invasions are common, especially in facilities with weak security, poor exterior lighting, and poor access control. Generally, perpetrators do not kill or seriously harm their victims, but the threat/use of force is not uncommon, and attempts to resist perpetrators will often be met with violence. Outside Juba, road ambushes and banditry are fairly common and often involve violence. Traveling in groups while in towns and in multiple cars while outside of towns reduces the chance of being targeted for crimes or harassment.
Non-violent petty theft and fraud are pervasive throughout South Sudan and are usually committed against targets of opportunity. These crimes include pickpocketing, theft of items from vehicles, and fraudulent currency exchanges. Drive-by muggings are another common occurrence. Individuals are advised to carry items on the side of the body away from the traffic. Reported incidents indicate that thefts usually occur near restaurants, banks, and other high-traffic areas.
Public areas (open markets, recreational areas) should be avoided at night. Large crowds are known to gather there and with limited lighting, petty theft and other crimes of opportunity are rife.
Other Areas of Concern
The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide services in emergency situations to U.S. citizens outside of Juba is extremely limited and dependent on security and seasonal conditions.
Areas of security concern can change in South Sudan quite quickly. The main theater of conflict has been the greater Upper Nile, which includes Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states. Frequent flare-ups between the government and opposition forces there have made travel extremely hazardous. After July 2016, the number of security incidents also increased in greater Equatoria, particularly Central and Western Equatoria States. Roads connecting Juba to Equatorian towns (the Juba-Yei road, Juba-Torit road, and the Juba-Nimule road) that provides a transportation link to Uganda, have been subject to attacks targeting civilians. Proposed in-country travel to areas outside of Juba by U.S. Embassy personnel is carefully evaluated by the Embassy’s Emergency Action Committee prior to approval by the Chief of Mission.
The border with Sudan is also a contentious region. Occasional military engagements between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army as well as various militia groups make the region particularly hazardous.
Landmines remain a concern, especially in rural areas that have little foot traffic.
Although conflicts are not directed at U.S. interests, travelers can become victims or get caught in the crossfire. It is recommended that travelers exercise caution, carry redundant forms of communication, and regularly monitor local/international news.
Lack of sufficient command and control within all elements of the security services can quickly lead to violence, as evinced by the violence and crime perpetrated by armed uniformed military in July 2016.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road conditions are extremely poor. The vast majority of roads are unpaved or poorly maintained. Unpaved roads usually resemble, and regularly serve as, river beds that are strewn with ruts, rocks, ditches, or other obstacles that make passage very difficult. During the rainy season (May-November), roads can become impassable due to flooding and the lack of drainage. Years of conflict have also created the threat of unexploded ordnance, including landmines, as a hazard on or near major roads. Road travel times are often much longer than expected due to the poor road conditions, disabled vehicles, and slow traffic. A vehicle tracking system is highly recommended.
Pervasive road banditry is common, especially during hours of darkness. Travel between major towns should only be conducted during daylight hours and in pairs or groups of vehicles. Vehicles should carry food, water, a first aid kit, satellite communications, and tools/supplies to repair damage to or extricate a vehicle. Reliable mechanics and spare parts are extremely limited outside of Juba.
Pedestrian traffic can be fairly heavy in major towns. Pedestrians often wander on/near roads. Motorbike taxis (boda-bodas) and mini-van taxis are also common and pose a hazard to other drivers. Vehicles make frequent stops, weave in/out of traffic, are often overloaded, and rarely are in good working order. Boda-bodas are also often used in criminal activities. Large, overloaded trucks can also pose a risk to traffic between major towns. Animals often wander the roads, even within city limits.
Police coverage of roadways outside of major towns is limited. Traffic controls are limited in Juba and non-existent throughout the rest of South Sudan. Traffic police tend to be present at busy intersections to control traffic, but they are poorly trained and generally spend most of their time inspecting commercial vehicles rather than controlling traffic. Some major intersections feature solar powered traffic lights, but local drivers, especially boda-bodas, routinely ignore the signals. Traffic accidents are common, especially on paved roads where speeds are higher, and at intersections where traffic controls do not exist. Drivers should pay extra attention when entering intersections, checking all sides of the vehicle, as boda-bodas are unpredictable and may pass on either side.
Security checkpoints are occasionally set up during hours of darkness but can occur at any time. Diplomatic, UN, and NGO drivers have been stopped and harassed at these checkpoints. It is often reported that security officials at checkpoints appear intoxicated and on occasion demand money/food.
For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices” or “Road Safety in Africa.”
Public Transportation Conditions
The use of public transportation is off-limits to U.S. Embassy personnel and should be avoided whenever possible.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED JUBA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
The terrorism threat to South Sudan is largely based on the country’s porous borders with neighboring countries that have indigenous terrorist organizations. Ineffective border controls may allow terrorist and other militant groups to seek refuge in South Sudan. There is no evidence that terrorist cells train or operate in South Sudan.
- The Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab is not known to conduct operations in South Sudan but is believed to transit the country and may use it as a safe haven.
- The northern Uganda-originated Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had a fairly constant presence in South Sudan but in recent years has been confined to northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and eastern Central African Republic (CAR). There were no reports of LRA incursions into South Sudan in 2016.
- South Sudan’s longest land border is with Sudan. Anti-Sudanese rebel militia groups are known to train, seek safe-haven in, and conduct operations against Sudanese Armed Forces from South Sudan’s northern states.
Harassment of foreign nationals largely focuses on citizens of eastern African nations and employees of the UN, NGOs, and humanitarian organizations working in opposition-controlled areas. Host nation security services are suspicious of NGO and humanitarian workers they deem have, by virtue of their work location or services, provided support to the opposition. If workers are perceived to be engaged in any activity that could be construed as detrimental to the government, it is likely that the host nation security services will question them in an intimidating fashion. This sometimes results in prolonged detention, which is often followed by a significant monetary penalty, public apology, and/or deportation.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED JUBA AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
In July 2013, President Salva Kiir Mayardit dismissed his entire cabinet, including Vice President Reik Machar Teny, from office. Kiir characterized this move as a necessary restructuring of the government, reinstating some ministers to new cabinet positions, while shutting out the Vice President and other primarily non-Dinka cabinet members. In the following months, similar reshuffling events occurred at the state and municipal government levels. In late October, Kiir dissolved all structures of his own political party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), apart from the chairmanship. Months of political tension boiled over in December 2013 when intra-governmental fighting broke out in Juba and spread to Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states, including ethnic-based killings. After 20 months of peace talks brokered by regional and international community partners under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a peace agreement was signed in August 2015.
Efforts to form a unified government failed in July 2016 when fighting broke out between the security services of Kiir and Machar who was chased out of the country, causing a country-wide flare-up of fighting between government forces and a variety of opposition groups, including groups in the southern Equitoria region. Sudan and South Sudan also feud over accusations of supporting anti-government rebel militia groups within each other’s borders. Despite these feuds, the two countries maintain diplomatic relations.
Protests and political demonstrations do occur and are generally peaceful. In 2016, the space permitted for anti-government protests largely closed although peaceful demonstrations occurred irregularly. Protests are not usually held in front of the U.S. Embassy or other diplomatic facilities; however, they do occasionally occur.
Inter and intra-ethnic violence is prevalent. The 2013-2015 conflict was fought primarily along ethnic lines with Dinka supporting President Kiir and Nuer supporting former Vice President Machar. During the first several days of conflict in December 2013, there were reports of large-scale ethnic killings and other human rights atrocities. The fighting displaced over 1.7 million South Sudanese with over 185,000 seeking protection in UN compounds. With the flare-up in conflict in July 2016, the numbers of displaced have topped 3.3 million, with over 1.42 million living as refugees outside the borders, and over 220,000 living on UN compounds designated for the protection of civilians.
Inter-communal clashes, especially between the Murle, Lou Nuer, and Bor Dinka communities are not uncommon. Such clashes normally occur during the dry season (December-April) and have resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths. Cattle raiding and child/bride abduction are frequent causes for inter-communal violence throughout South Sudan but are most common in Jonglei, Lakes, and Unity states. Disproportionally large retaliatory attacks, including large-scale fighting, kidnapping, and murder, can have a spillover effect.
Several seismic fault lines run through South Sudan, but significant earthquakes are rare.
Of greater concern is flooding during the rainy season (June-November). Extended periods of rain can cause flash flooding of roadways near rivers/streams, rendering them impassible for days to months.
South Sudan’s external conflicts have traditionally focused on the country’s complicated relationship with Sudan and the control of the oil production areas. After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan acquired over 75% of the territory already producing oil, but Sudan retained control of the export pipeline and refining infrastructure. Oil revenue accounts for a majority of government revenues, but damage to infrastructure and a shutdown of facilities in 2012 have reduced production. As a result, South Sudan is experiencing severe inflation, shortages in hard currency, and relies largely on loans advanced against future oil revenue to remain fiscally solvent.
South Sudan runs on a cash economy. Be sure to have enough U.S. dollars for the entirety of your visit. U.S. dollars should be no older than 2006 and have no visible marks/tears. Dollar bills newer than 2009 receive a higher rate of exchange and are more readily accepted. Credit cards are generally not accepted, and money transfers through Western Union are not always available.
The South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) suffers from limited resources, a lack of training, illiteracy, and weak command/control, all of which makes the provision of basic police services a challenge. SSNPS response time is improving but remains erratic. It should not be relied upon for medical emergencies requiring immediate transport to a hospital.
The SSNPS and other host nation security services are irregularly paid, which encourages corruption and predation on civilians for a source of income. Further, this creates an environment in which bribes of even a few dollars can make serious allegations disappear. Many SSNPS officers are unaware of the difference between civil and criminal charges. Reports indicate that some SSNPS officers rent their weapons or uniforms to criminals to assist with conducting robberies or invasions. Other reports indicate that SSNPS and other host nation security service members are often the perpetrators of crime.
Security services routinely make arrests based on suspicion rather than actual evidence. Prolonged and arbitrary detentions without charge or appearance before a judicial official also routinely occur. The legal system is rudimentary and ineffective with regard to the provision of due process.
The government of South Sudan has strict policies regarding photography. It is best to avoid taking pictures altogether, but especially near any government facilities/personnel. An official government permit is required for those who need to take photographs as part of their official (professional) duties. All personnel are advised to request permission from organizers before taking pictures at a public event or in a private setting. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.”
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
The U.S. Embassy strongly urges people not to pay bribes, comply with requests for a gift, or pay on-the-spot fines. Host nation security services are not required to notify the U.S. Embassy if American citizens are arrested. The U.S. Embassy, American Citizen Services, can be contacted at 0912-105-188 during business hours. After hours, the Embassy Duty Officer can be reached at 0912-105-107.
Crime Victim Assistance
The SSNPS implemented an emergency number for the general public to request police services: 777.
The SSNPS consists of approximately 40,000 officers separated into: the Criminal Investigative Division, Traffic, Fire Fighters, Customs Unit, Wildlife Conservation Unit, and Prisons Unit. The SSNPS formed the first ever Diplomatic Police Unit (DPU) in South Sudan in 2013 that focuses on the protection of diplomatic missions, NGOs, UN offices in/around Juba and the Juba International Airport. This unit has approximately 200 officers vetted and trained by the UN. Although a welcome addition to the SSNPS, the DPU is plagued by lack of funding and resources. The DPU can be contacted 24/7 by calling 0912-174-078.
Medical care is extremely limited, especially in areas outside of Juba. There are few ambulance services, and none meet international standards. Primary health care workers, especially in rural areas, lack adequate professional training, and instances of incorrect diagnosis and improper treatment are common.
Those who use prescription medications should bring an abundant supply with them, as most pharmacies have very limited stocks of prescription drugs. Additionally, drugs in stock at local pharmacies tend to be counterfeit or of an unknown origin. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
The list below includes organizations that may be able to assist you in case of a medical emergency. Physical addresses are not common in South Sudan. It is recommended that you contact medical organizations to confirm locations before an emergency happens.
- Juba Medical Complex is centrally-located in Juba town and is open 24/7. It offers inpatient and outpatient services, including a 24-hour "urgent care" clinic. They have a 24-hour laboratory, daytime x-ray, ultra-sound, and CAT scan capabilities. Tel: +211 (0) 955 523 371 or +211 (0) 955 353 333.
- AMREF, Flying Doctors: 24-hour control center in Nairobi. Emergency@flydoc.org or www.flydoc.org, tel: +254 733 639 088, +254 722 314 239.
- MRDC Medical Response Diplomatic Corp is a private medical/surgical clinic. Located at former “Norwegian Aid” compound. Has Emergency Ambulance, night response dependent on security situation. Laboratory/pharmacy/Operating Room with Recovery Room/short term observation. Outpatient clinic with 24 hour emergency stabilization and holding. 4 patient beds. Staff includes: American surgeon, American nurse practitioner, Kenyan nursing staff. Dr. Linderman: +211 95 404 4222. Paula Dickey, Nurse Practitioner +211 95 404 4333.
- ASPEN Medical South Sudan (AMSS) is a private medical clinic providing general medical and trauma care with on call emergency after clinic hours. AMSS offers comprehensive primary care services, emergency care, laboratory facilities, C arm radiology, ultrasound, pharmacy, Telemedicine capabilities and short-term observation. It is located inside Rock Shield Riverside, adjacent to AFEX Riverside Camp Consulting with patient organizations daily on methods of access; from Direct Billing insurance membership to subscription. 24 hour on-call fully equipped road ambulance retrieval and transfer service, with internationally registered EMT (Paramedic), operating within Juba, night time operations dependent on security situation. European and South African medical staff, with South Sudanese and Kenyan nursing and admin staff. Sumine Okullo at email@example.com or at +211 954 784 799. Emergency +211 916 097 530 or +211 916 097 530
U.S. Embassy Juba strongly recommends that travelers purchase overseas medical insurance that includes air ambulance/medical evacuation coverage before visiting South Sudan.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended for all travelers. All travelers should also have an updated vaccination card including evidence of current yellow fever vaccination.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for South Sudan.
OSAC Country Council Information
OSAC Juba contacts: Regional Security Officer Albert De Jong (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Assistant Regional Security Officer Chris Good (email@example.com) are the main points of contact for meetings. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions.
Embassy Location and Contact Information Embassy Address
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Juba, South Sudan: Tomping, Juba
Embassy Contact Numbers
Embassy Duty Officer - +211-912-105-107
Regional Security Officer - +211-912-534-188
The U.S. Embassy provides notary services, U.S. passport renewals, and emergency U.S. passports, along with the full range of Consular services including DNA checks for paternity, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad and passports for infants. Appointments for all services are recommended but not mandatory. U.S. citizens living or traveling in South Sudan are strongly encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
South Sudan Country Information Sheet