South Sudan 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Juba does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.


Please review OSAC's South Sudan-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Reliable, official statistics on crime are not available in South Sudan. U.S. Embassy Juba relies on the reporting of the UN, other Embassies, and NGOs to obtain limited statistics/reports of crimes.

Since July 2016, South Sudan has experienced a rise in crime, especially in Juba. This trend can be directly attributed to continued political instability, poor infrastructure, widespread corruption, and a growing economic crisis. Years of civil war, tribal conflict, and political unrest have provided the population with ready access to weapons and the knowledge of how to use them. Gunfire, especially at night, is not uncommon.

Violent crimes (murder, armed robbery, home invasions, cattle raiding, kidnapping). In Juba, the most frequently reported violent crimes include: armed robbery, home invasions, and carjackings. Neighborhoods where government leaders, business professionals, NGO staff, and foreign diplomats reside are not immune from criminal activity. Armed robberies, compound invasions, and carjackings are the most common type of violent crime to affect expatriates. These crimes generally occur during nighttime hours and often involve multiple perpetrators. In 2016, the frequency of such crimes during daylight hours increased due to worsening economic conditions. In some cases, perpetrators wear host nation security service uniforms, carry military weapons, and use the ruse of legitimate check points or official business to stop individuals or gain access to compounds. Those traveling alone or in small groups during late evening hours (especially those walking) are often the target of armed robberies. Home/compound invasions are common, especially in facilities with weak security, poor exterior lighting, and poor access control. Generally, perpetrators do not kill or seriously harm their victims, but the threat/use of force is not uncommon, and attempts to resist perpetrators will often be met with violence. Outside Juba, road ambushes and banditry are fairly common and often involve violence. Traveling in groups while in towns and in multiple cars while outside of towns reduces the chance of being targeted for crimes or harassment.

Non-violent petty theft and fraud are pervasive throughout South Sudan and are usually committed against targets of opportunity. These crimes include pickpocketing, theft of items from vehicles, and fraudulent currency exchanges. Drive-by muggings are another common occurrence. Individuals are advised to carry items on the side of the body away from the traffic. Reported incidents indicate that thefts usually occur near restaurants, banks, and other high-traffic areas.

Public areas (open markets, recreational areas) should be avoided at night. Large crowds are known to gather there and with limited lighting, petty theft and other crimes of opportunity are rife.

Other Areas of Concern

The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide services in emergency situations to U.S. citizens outside of Juba is extremely limited and dependent on security and seasonal conditions.

Areas of security concern can change in South Sudan quite quickly. The main theater of conflict has been the greater Upper Nile, which includes Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states. Frequent flare-ups between the government and opposition forces there have made travel extremely hazardous. After July 2016, the number of security incidents also increased in greater Equatoria, particularly Central and Western Equatoria States. Roads connecting Juba to Equatorian towns (the Juba-Yei road, Juba-Torit road, and the Juba-Nimule road) that provides a transportation link to Uganda, have been subject to attacks targeting civilians. Proposed in-country travel to areas outside of Juba by U.S. Embassy personnel is carefully evaluated by the Embassy's Emergency Action Committee prior to approval by the Chief of Mission.

The border with Sudan is also a contentious region. Occasional military engagements between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army as well as various militia groups make the region particularly hazardous.

Landmines remain a concern, especially in rural areas that have little foot traffic.

Although conflicts are not directed at U.S. interests, travelers can become victims or get caught in the crossfire. It is recommended that travelers exercise caution, carry redundant forms of communication, and regularly monitor local/international news.

Lack of sufficient command and control within all elements of the security services can quickly lead to violence, as evinced by the violence and crime perpetrated by armed uniformed military in July 2016.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions are extremely poor. The vast majority of roads are unpaved or poorly maintained. Unpaved roads usually resemble, and regularly serve as, river beds that are strewn with ruts, rocks, ditches, or other obstacles that make passage very difficult. During the rainy season (May-November), roads can become impassable due to flooding and the lack of drainage. Years of conflict have also created the threat of unexploded ordnance, including landmines, as a hazard on or near major roads. Road travel times are often much longer than expected due to the poor road conditions, disabled vehicles, and slow traffic. A vehicle tracking system is highly recommended.

Pervasive road banditry is common, especially during hours of darkness. Travel between major towns should only be conducted during daylight hours and in pairs or groups of vehicles. Vehicles should carry food, water, a first aid kit, satellite communications, and tools/supplies to repair damage to or extricate a vehicle. Reliable mechanics and spare parts are extremely limited outside of Juba.

Pedestrian traffic can be fairly heavy in major towns. Pedestrians often wander on/near roads. Motorbike taxis (boda-bodas) and mini-van taxis are also common and pose a hazard to other drivers. Vehicles make frequent stops, weave in/out of traffic, are often overloaded, and rarely are in good working order. Boda-bodas are also often used in criminal activities. Large, overloaded trucks can also pose a risk to traffic between major towns. Animals often wander the roads, even within city limits.

Police coverage of roadways outside of major towns is limited. Traffic controls are limited in Juba and non-existent throughout the rest of South Sudan. Traffic police tend to be present at busy intersections to control traffic, but they are poorly trained and generally spend most of their time inspecting commercial vehicles rather than controlling traffic. Some major intersections feature solar powered traffic lights, but local drivers, especially boda-bodas, routinely ignore the signals. Traffic accidents are common, especially on paved roads where speeds are higher, and at intersections where traffic controls do not exist. Drivers should pay extra attention when entering intersections, checking all sides of the vehicle, as boda-bodas are unpredictable and may pass on either side.

Security checkpoints are occasionally set up during hours of darkness but can occur at any time. Diplomatic, UN, and NGO drivers have been stopped and harassed at these checkpoints. It is often reported that security officials at checkpoints appear intoxicated and on occasion demand money/food.

Source: Overseas Security Advisory Council