Photo Credit: Steve Evans
Happy Independence Day: 8 Interesting Facts About South Sudan
Every July 9, South Sudan celebrates its Independence Day. This year marks ten years since the country was established, so in recognition of this special occasion, here are eight interesting facts about thec country.
We wish South Sudan a very happy Independence Day!
1. It's Black by name
South Sudan’s official name is the Republic of South Sudan. As with its neighboring country Sudan, the name of the country is derived from the Arabic bilād as-sūdān, the “Land of the Blacks”.
The Name ‘Sudan’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘Aswad’ meaning ‘black’.
2. The Geography of South Sudan
South Sudan has a population of roughly 12 million people, and the capital city is Juba, which is home to half a million people. An estimated 83% of South Sudanese people reside in rural areas and mostly make a living from agriculture and cattle rearing.
South Sudan is a landlocked country; it is bordered by Sudan to the north, Ethiopia to the east, the Central African Republic to the west, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the southwest, Uganda to the south and Kenya to the southeast.
3. It's The World’s Youngest Nation
South Sudan is in fact the world’s youngest sovereign nation, gaining its independence from Sudan in 2011. In doing so, it became the 54th independent African nation. That same year South Sudan became the 193rd member of the United Nations and a member of the African Union.
Prior to this, South Sudan had been part of the Republic of Sudan. Following what emerged to be Africa’s longest running civil war, Sudan and South Sudan agreed to separate in 2005 and in 2011 the Republic of South Sudan was born. This year will mark the ten-year anniversary of South Sudan gaining its independence.
4. A Presidential Fashion Statement
The first president of South Sudan is Salva Kiir Mayardit, who is currently the head of state. Salva Kiir is recognized for regularly wearing a 10-gallon Stetson hat, which has become his trademark look. This reportedly began in 2006, when he was visiting the White House. Former U.S. president George W. Bush gifted Kiir a Stetson hat, and he liked the gift so much that he bought himself several more.
But the hat is said to be more than just a fashion statement; it is also Kiir’s way of paying homage to George W. Bush for the role he played in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Sudan and South Sudan. The peace agreement marked the end of the second Sudanese civil war, and by extension laid the groundwork for the subsequent referendum on South Sudan’s independence. Salva Kiir wore the same black Stetson that George W. Bush had gifted him the day he was inaugurated as South Sudan’s first president.
5. Home Of Second-Largest Animal Migration
The Bandingilo National Park in South Sudan’s Equatoria region is famous for being home to the second-largest annual animal migration on Earth. It is the second largest after the Serengeti annual animal migration in Northern Tanzania. The park was established in 1992 and spans over 10,000 square kilometers.
This immense annual animal migration involves various species of antelope, elephants and giraffes. The national park is also home to lions, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs.
6. Walking Tall
The largest ethnic group in South Sudan is the Dinka ethnic group, who constitute two-fifths of the population. The second-largest ethnic group is the Nuer people, who constitute one-fifth of the total population.
The Dinka are noted for being on average one of the tallest ethnic groups in Africa. A report by Derek F. Roberts and D. R. Bainbridge in the early 1950s put the average height of a group of Dinka men at 5ft 11.9 inches (182.6 cm) and Dinka women at 5ft 11.4 inches (181.3cm). Incidentally, the tallest basketball player in NBA history was a Dinka man named Manute Bol who was 7ft 7 inches (231cm).
7. Young, Gifted, and Black
South Sudan has one of the youngest populations in the world, with around half the population being under 18 years-old and two-fifths of the population under the age of 15.
According to a 2018 report by the United Nations Population Fund, 73.7% of the country is under the age of 30. However, the population continues to grow due to a relatively high fertility rate of 4.74 births per South Sudanese woman.
8. Black is beautiful
In South Sudan, a country whose name means ‘Land of the Blacks’, in recent years skin-bleaching has become an increasingly popular trend. In response, there has been a campaign among certain public figures to encourage young people to embrace their dark skin.
One woman at the forefront of this movement is Rebecca Joshua Okwaci who is a South Sudanese politician and who is the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services. She has been vocal in encouraging South Sudanese women to embrace their dark complexions and to end the colorist stigma surrounding darker skin tones.
As Afrocentric beauty standards become ever-more celebrated internationally, there have been several high-profile models of South Sudanese descent who have taken the fashion world by storm. These include Alek Wek, Adut Akech, Aweng Ade-Chuol and Nyakim Gatwech.