South Sudan

21 April 2021

South Sudan, independent since 2011, is indeed "the world's newest country." Mundari cattlemen shown here with a Texas cattleman's son.

Since finally gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan has had a terrible first decade.

● After fighting the Sudanese, residents of the new nation soon began fighting each other. An estimated 400,000 have been killed (out of roughly 13 million people) and over 2,000,000 forced to flee their homes.

● Finally, just over a year ago, a peace agreement was reached that has held so far. But some 19,000 UN personnel are still here.

● South Sudan is about the size of Texas or France, and like Texas has oil. It's yet another African country with natural resources that yield few benefits to ordinary people.

● Sadly, South Sudan ranks down with Somalia and Burundi as the world's poorest countries. Not coincidentally, its regime is also tied with Somalia as the most corrupt on earth, according to Transparency International.

In the capital Juba, most people do not want to be photographed. However, at the big Konyo Konyo market, I came across these two sympatico workers with warm smiles who (after a short chat and buying bananas) seemed pleased to be asked.

On the Juba city tour, photographing government buildings (even when you could see them behind high barriers) was prohibited. One building that I could and wanted to photograph was St. Teresa's Cathedral.

A majority in South Sudan are Christians and a majority of the Christians are Catholics (about 36% of the population). On the day I visited the cathedral, local Catholics were in mourning the death of Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro who had played a major role in pushing contending forces to stop the bloodshed.     

The Mundari

The nomadic Mundari people are famous for their large herds of Ankole-Watusi cattle that are central to their way of life, diets, status, and even marriages. Their cows provide the milk (sometimes fermented) that dominates their daily diet.

Most articles emphasize the Mundari devotion to their cattle so much that it seems like it must be exaggerated. It's not. And I'm afraid I offended a man when I asked an unthinkable question about eating beef.

Unlike the residents of Juba, the Mundari welcomed the entertainment of seeing weirdo tourists. My apparently odd way of pronouncing the Mundari word for "hello" prompted much laughter and repeated teasing. Dudes, go easy on me.

So, happily, photos were fine here. Some people seemed to feel left out if I pointed my phone camera elsewhere so I started, always asking of course, photographing more people to be inclusive.

A small fraction of the hundreds of cattle returning to the camp for the evening after grazing around the area during the day.

Mundari herdsmen are noted for taking great care of their prize Ankole-Watusi cattle, even cleaning and polishing their huge horns.

The friendly kids really wanted to pose for photographs.
This was my favorite out of many.

The powder on three of these kids (and in other photos here) is used as a homemade sunscreen against the burning equatorial sun. 

These tall guys were laughing about the importance of marrying a tall woman, but turned to this serious pose when agreeing to a photograph.

Without asking, I got a head's up nod from this man that he wanted to be photographed and the result is interesting.

Spent so much time trying to compose a caption that does justice to these women...
but I could not.

Getting a glimpse of South Sudan, especially visiting with the Mundari, offered the kind of wonderful, unexpected experiences that happen when you push yourself to go to countries far off the beaten path (aided here by Untamed Borders).

South Sudan held extra significance for me because now I only have one unvisited country remaining.

The White Nile (aka Baḥr Al-Jabal or Mountain Nile) flows by Juba and on through South Sudan to join the Blue Nile in Khartoum, Sudan.