The Cars and Animals of South Sudan

Sunday 10th March  to Saturday 16th 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


As I prepared to come back to the UK for a while, I thought I would reflect on some of the sights and sounds of the city, particularly on the vehicles and animals one sees.

In terms of vehicles, there are many varieties of cars and lorries but overwhelmingly in Juba the traffic is made up of three types of vehicle. Firstly of course there is the Land Cruiser, coming in many different styles – but all big, and very often white. These are the stock-in-trade of the United Nations and all the NGOs but many private citizens drive them too, and in many cases because they are the ideal vehicle for the very, very poor roads in Juba and elsewhere.

And then there are the motorbikes. There are various makes but invariably they are 125 cc machines and they may be used by one person (usually male), but equally they may be carrying two people, three people or even more. As in many countries, if the passenger is a woman she may well be riding side-saddle.

And there are the buses. There are larger buses which travel long distances across the country and also to Uganda and to Kenya. But within Juba the buses are mainly Toyota Hiace minibuses, locally known as mutatus although I understand that this is really a Swahili word. These ply set routes; often the route is written on the side but that is no guarantee that that is actually where it has come from or where it is going. You hail them wherever you see them and indeed, if they have an empty seat they will be looking out for new passengers anyway. They can carry 14 passengers plus a driver and young man to collect the money. Unless you are going very long-distances out of the main city the fare is always the same – one S. Sudanese Pound. They are crowded and hot but everybody is extremely good-natured as they make way for each other, clambering in and out each time the bus stops.

This is in Juba; elsewhere there are variations. The dominant form of public transport in Wau is the motorised rickshaw, or tuk-tuk. There are now a few of these in Juba as well but really not very many. In Malakal there are a number of small car taxis which I did not see anywhere else. They provide cheap transport but one has to wonder how they would cope in the rainy season when apparently the best vehicle is a tractor.

These are the common vehicles but of course people will always want to show their individuality and there were some very unusual forms of transport, including

  • a single American-style yellow chequered Taxi
  • a stretched Hummer limousine
  • an immaculate 1960s Ford Anglia, right down to its white wall tyres
  • and perhaps most bizarre of all, a hovercraft parked in one of the side streets


So what of the animals? Outside of the city of course there are wild animals, with plenty of monkeys but also larger animals in the national park. There are also plenty of cows which feature very strongly in the rural economy.

But in the towns one mainly sees the goats, which are just everywhere and which eat just about anything. There were also ‘sheep’ which looked like a cross between a goat and sheep. And then there are the chickens and ducks, often followed by their young and all scratching a living out of nothing. In some of the towns outside Juba there were plenty of donkeys, often pulling water carts but sometimes to be seen being ridden by men.

I haven’t mentioned the dogs which are also very common and can be seen scavenging for food. They are good natured and generally keep out of your way; they are, in the main, pretty good at avoiding the traffic as they cross the road but there are also quite a few who get around on 3 good legs – evidence that they don’t always get it right.

Shortly before leaving I had a conversation with someone and we remarked that we had never seen a pig in South Sudan. Then one day when I was being driven along one of the main roads past the president’s residence I saw a large sow, followed by two good-sized piglets. Goodness knows where they were going.

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