So where is South Sudan?

Sunday 17th March to Saturday 23rd March

I am a volunteer with VSO but all entries on this blog are my personal responsibility alone and do not represent the views of VSO


Having returned to the UK, I have been looking back and wondering where exactly is South Sudan. If, like me, you’re someone who is obsessed with maps, this must seem like a ridiculous question. After all, you just look at an atlas or a globe and find the country – slightly less than halfway down Africa and a bit to the right.

But of course that is not what I mean. The question is all about how South Sudan relates to the rest of the continent.

To the north lies Sudan and North Africa and given the history of the relationships between Arab Africa and black Africa it is unlikely that South Sudan will see its main future lying in that direction. Nevertheless relationships will no doubt improve in the future and there would be considerable benefit to the northern states of South Sudan if the border were to reopen.

To the west and south-west are the Central African Republic and the Congo. It would seem that in relation to geography, climate and agriculture there is much that is similar to the neighbouring parts of South Sudan. However, these countries are parts of the French-speaking central African area and this is probably enough to limit the contact and interchange in that direction.

East of South Sudan is Ethiopia then Eritrea, and beyond that, Somalia i.e. the Horn of Africa. There are a great many people from these countries in South Sudan, running businesses and establishing themselves. There seems to be quite a lot of common ground between the different peoples and in time, as the infrastructure improves, they will no doubt be more and more trade from Ethiopia. However there is still a big language difference and South Sudan does not really feel like part of the Horn.

So what is left? The other neighbouring borders are with Uganda and with Kenya and in turn they border Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi – the states which make up the East African community. It would seem that this is the natural place for South Sudan and indeed there have been discussions between the country and the community about eventually joining. However these discussions have apparently now stalled and it is not clear how they will be taken forward. But, with the Republic of Somalia also applying to join the Community the future of relationships should be very interesting.

Another interesting grouping is the Commonwealth – South Sudan has applied to be a member. With other African countries joining (or applying to join) who did not have previous connections with Britain, like Mozambique and Rwanda, this is a fascinating development.

So nothing is simple. Perhaps this is just the inevitable complication of a landlocked country which borders many other nations. Living on an island which has not generally had to face the issues of land borders for a very long time, this is an area about which we in Britain do not know very much.

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