My Favorite Thing About Southern Sudan


I lived in Southern Sudan and East Africa from 2007 – 2009 and I was surprised by something. The people there are overwhelmingly honest.

Certainly there was the occasional official that would ask for money, but generally speaking, people pride themselves on their integrity. This may not seem too astonishing to a general reader, but consider this – a vast majority of the population live in mud huts and have little or no money. Moreover, they are regularly presented with the trappings of the “First World” and seek to buy these.

And they smile easily.

While Southern Sudan is not yet a vacation spot, I was very impressed with the ethical foundations of the society.

Cows in Sudan

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6 thoughts on “My Favorite Thing About Southern Sudan

  1. Interesting.
    I have worked in Southern Sudan and had a completely different experience. Corruption is well and alive in Southern Sudan.
    I witnessed it so many times and more so with the political elite.
    Cheers,
    Patrick- Baudin

    1. My friend, it is certainly true that there is plenty of corruption to be found in Southern Sudan. There is also a great deal of anecdotal evidence to support your comment about the corruption of the political elite. We have no disagreement on this. However, when I interact with the merchants, and the people in government offices, and even the housekeeping and maintenance staff I find a strong culture of honesty and integrity. I worked in Sudan for two years and I never has a single thing stolen from me, and virtually no one asked me for money.

      Nothing.

      On one occasion a young attorney at the Ministry of Legal Affairs ran down the street after me to return a mechanical pencil that I had left on his desk. Where does this happen? There is an integrity in the South Sudanese culture that should be recognized and encouraged.

      Perhaps I was lucky.

      I’d be interested in hearing of your most positive experiences with people and places.

  2. The majority of the merchants, and probably your housekeeping and maintenance staff are not all Southern Sudanese. They mainly come from East Africa, Zaire and Khartoum etc. As foreigners in Southern Sudan they will keep on their toes.
    Southern Sudanese culture is communal. So, of course, you will find integrity among themself.
    I think that you have been lucky and by the way people at the ministry of Legal affairs, in Juba, are quite nice indeed.
    Now go outside Juba. Try Duar, Mapel, Rumbek and whatever and you will see a different situations, different Southern Sudanese and different Dinkas or Nuers.

    My most positive experiences with people and places, in Africa, were in Senegal and Uganda
    Cheers.

    1. Most of my dealings in Southern Sudan included time in Rumbek and Juba. Granted, this is not the widest possible survey of the population, but did include significant interaction with with Dinka, Nuer, Ocholis and many others. The housekeeping staff I referred to were also from the area between Juba and Rumbek. Perhaps I live a charmed life and simply did not run across those who made such a poor impression. I will count myself lucky, and be glad to observe the many good people I met.

      Thank you for the positive suggestions about Senegal and Uganda.

    1. Patrick, If I have any excuse to be in Kenya – I’ll call. I lived there for awhile and really loved the place.
      The people were terrific. Let’s avoid discussing the corruption problems in Kenya, however. They have challenges ahead.

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