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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home

New Americans

Immigrants from other areas of the world

The South Sudanese people

Cultural Profile of their country of origin- South Sudan

The name Sudan is the name given to the geographical region south of the Sahara desert, that stretches from Western Africa to eastern Central Africa. The name derives from the Arabic bilād as-sūdān (بلاد السودان), or "Land of the Blacks".

South Sudan (/suːˈdɑːn, -ˈdæn/), officially known as the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country also called Southern Sudan, located in northeastern Africa and bordered by Ethiopia, Sudan (they gained independence from them in 2011), Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Kenya. Prior to 2011, South Sudan was part of Sudan, its neighbor to the north. South Sudan’s population, predominantly African cultures who tend to adhere to Christian or animist beliefs, was long at odds with Sudan’s largely Muslim and Arab northern government.

Its rich biodiversity includes lush savannas, swamplands, and rainforests that are home to many species of wildlife. Its population was estimated as 14,235,000 as of 2022. Juba is the capital and largest city. The country is sometimes informally called the Nilotic Republic (as it is supposed to be the place of origin of the Nilotic people). It is the most recent sovereign state or country, with widespread recognition as of 2022.

The history of their people

The Nilotic people of South Sudan—the Dinka, Anyuak, Bari, Acholi, Nuer, Shilluk, Kaligi (Arabic Feroghe), and others—first entered South Sudan sometime before the 10th century, coinciding with the fall of medieval Nubia. From the 15th to the 19th century, tribal migrations, largely from the area of Bahr el Ghazal, brought the Anyuak, Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk to their modern locations in Bahr El Ghazal and the Upper Nile Region, while the Acholi and Bari settled in Equatoria. The Zande, Mundu, Avukaya and Baka, who entered South Sudan in the 16th century, established the largest state of the Equatoria Region.

The Dinka is the largest, Nuer the second largest, the Zande the third-largest, and the Bari the fourth-largest of South Sudan's ethnic groups. They are found in the Maridi, Yambio, and Tombura districts in the tropical rainforest belt of Western Equatoria, the Adio of Azande client in Yei, Central Equatoria, and Western Bahr el Ghazal. In the 18th century, the Avungara sib rose to power over the rest of Azande society, a domination which continued into the 20th century.

British policies favoring Christian missionaries, such as the Closed District Ordinance of 1922 (see History of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan), along with certain geographical barriers such as swamps along the White Nile, curtailed the spread of Islam to the south, allowing these southern tribes to retain most of their social and cultural heritage, as well as their political and religious institutions.

British colonial policies in Sudan emphasized the development of the Arab north, largely ignoring the Black African south. That resulted in the lack of schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, and other basic infrastructure. After Sudan's first independent elections in 1958, the continued neglect of the southern region by the Khartoum government led to uprisings, revolt, and the longest civil war on the continent. The People affected by this violence included the Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, Anyuak, Murle, Bari, Mundari, Baka, Balanda Bviri, Boya, Didinga, Jiye, Kaligi, Kuku, Lotuka, Nilotic, Toposa and Zande.

Slavery has been an institution of Sudanese life throughout history. It began in ancient times, and recently had a resurgence during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005). In modern times, The Sudanese government has never admitted to the existence of slavery within their borders but in 1999 and under international pressure, it established the Committee to Eradicate the Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWC). 4,000 "abducted" southerners were returned to South Sudan through this program before it was shut down in 2010. A significant number were repatriated after 2005, after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that year, but an unknown amount are believed to have remained in captivity. The Institute created a "Sudan Abductee Database" containing the names of over 11,000 people who were abducted in 20 years of slave-raiding in the Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state in southern Sudan, from 1983 to 2002. The January 2005 "North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)" that ended the Sudanese civil war, put an end to the slave raids. According to Christian Solidarity International, it did not provide a way home for those already enslaved. The last Human Rights Watch "Backgrounder on Slavery in Sudan" was updated March 2002.

Several organizations have tried to help people return to their land, using different methods, with some efforts to "redeem" (buy the freedom of) the enslaved in Sudan, which are controversial. Beginning in 1995, Christian Solidarity International began "redeeming" enslaved people through an underground network of traders set up through local peace agreements between Arab and southern chiefs. The group claims to have freed over 80,000 people in this manner since that time. Several other charities eventually followed their example. In 1999, UNICEF called the practice of redeeming enslaved people 'intolerable', arguing that these charities are implicitly accepting that human beings can be bought and sold, and they also said that buying enslaved individuals from slave-traders gives them cash to purchase arms and ammunition. Christian Solidarity denied these allegations, stating that they purchase them in Sudanese pounds, not US dollars that could be used to purchase those. As of 2015, Christian Solidarity International was continuing to redeem enslaved people.

Key facts

Population: 14,235,000 as of 2022.

GDP (nominal): US$ 4.67 Billion (2019 Statistics)

Official language: English is the official language. Arabic (of Juba and Sudanese variants) and other languages such as Dinka, Nuer, Bari, Zande, Shilluk are also widely spoken.

Currency: South Sudanese Pound (SSP)

Area: 644,329 sq. km (248,777 sq. miles)

Capital city: Juba

Population density: Per square Km, 22.1/ Per square Mile, 57.2 (2022)

Urban-Rural Population: Urban: 19.6%/ Rural: 80.4%(2018)

Stay tuned for more information on the South Sudanese people and their culture, and more places and their people in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.


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