Juba, town, capital of South Sudan. It is a river port on the west bank of the Baḥr Al-Jabal (Mountain Nile), about 87 miles (140 km) south of Bor. Juba is a commercial centre for agricultural products produced in the surrounding area. It is a southern terminus for river traffic in South Sudan, and it is also a highway hub, with roads radiating into Uganda, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It has an international airport and several branch banks. The town is the headquarters of the University of Juba, founded in 1975.
Prior to its 2011 independence, South Sudan was part of Sudan, its neighbour to the north. In 1947, when the Sudan was still a colonial holding under joint British and Egyptian administration, Juba was the site of a conference where representatives of the northern and southern parts of the Sudan agreed to unify, thus dashing Britain’s hopes of adding the southern part to Uganda. Unification did not go smoothly, however, and Juba, as the chief city of southern Sudan, became the spearhead of southern resistance to northern domination. Sudan’s independence in 1956 was preceded by a mutiny of southern troops in nearby Torit that spread to Juba in 1955, and the unrest was the beginning of a civil war that was not settled until 1972. With the resumption of the civil war in 1983, the southern resistance repeatedly tried to overrun the central government’s pivotal military garrison at Juba. The war ended in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which granted autonomy to the region of southern Sudan, and Juba experienced a rapid rate of development after the signing. Juba was named the regional capital and, when the region seceded in 2011, Juba became the capital of the newly independent country of South Sudan. Pop. (2008) town, 82,346; county, 368,436.
It is a land of opportunity, no doubt, but one that requires a great deal of stoicism on the part of the workforce. The mix of foreign embassy and NGO staff, engineers and businessmen has given the city a cosmopolitan feel. In any bar or restaurant you can engage in lively debate about anything from the rights and wrongs of foreign aid, to the Chinese takeover of Africa, and you’ll never be short of places to eat and drink, providing, of course, that you can afford it. Traditional tourist sites in the city are few and far between, but you do not come to Juba to see ancient buildings or museums. Instead, you come to work, to make money or to make a difference (and occasionally both at once). Visit Juba to see a city and a country in a period of rapid transition, being catapulted into the 21st century but without a clearly-defined vision or plan as to exactly what that means. Whether you intend to participate or to observe, it is a fascinating place to be.