A common statement often used by ranking South Sudanese officials affirms that South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, has an area the size of (or larger than) Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi put together.
The claim is usually made in the context of what South Sudan can potentially offer given the right conditions.
But according to Morris Surur, a South Sudanese netizen, this is just another myth that has been left floating for too long.
I have been hearing this myth for a while especially among politicians and some civil servants, whenever asked during presentations or discussions what the area of South Sudan is…. I have seen it appearing in presentations of some big shots in international forum[s]. Besides this being false, it portrays how some of us don’t like to probe generally accepted floating statements…
So we at SS4U took up the challenge to ‘probe this generally accepted floating statement’ and here is what we found.
FACT: South Sudan is not larger than Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda [excluding Burundi]
Geography tells us that South Sudan has a total area of 619,745 km sq . The combined area of Kenya (580,367 Km sq), Uganda (236,040 Km sq) and Rwanda (26,338 km sq) is 842,745 Km sq, which is 223,000 Km sq larger than the Republic of South Sudan.
In fact, Kenya and Uganda (without their other sisters) are larger than South Sudan.
Even after adding Abyei, that piece of land almost half the size of Rwanda and contested by Sudan, South Sudan is still minus 9-Rwandas smaller than the alleged size.
And also, even when your remove the non-land mass area (areas covered by water in Uganda etc)….
So, how come this simple geographical calculation has been left floating and unchecked for so long? Could Morris Surur be right to suggest ’compulsory geography quiz during job interviews’ for the those who have not taken the liberty to ‘probe this generally accepted floating statement’ before using it loosely?
The origin of the statement…
Those who use the statement often accredited the late Dr. John Garang as the source of the quote. Many have just gotten used to swallowing what ever is thrown onto them… As is usually the case, people simply consumed the information and then assumed, misunderstood, misquoted or misinterpreted what Dr. Garang said.
During his historic speech at signing ceremony of the CPA[page 12], his actual words were:
… the SPLM shall exert all efforts to build physical infrastructure – roads, rail and river transport and telecommunications. There has never been any tarmac road in the new Sudan since creation, since the days of Adam and Eve, and this is an area the size of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi put together…
The difference (if you see it) is that he said New Sudan and not South Sudan – which are two different kettles of fish.
New Sudan vs South Sudan
New Sudan – as per the 1994 amended definition – means the areas under the control of the SPLM/A. During the signing of the CPA, the ‘map’ of New Sudan would have included the whole of South Sudan, The Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile State.
(Left) The unofficial map of ‘New Sudan’ before the signing of the CPA and (right) the political map of RSS (excluding Abyei)
In the speech, Dr. Garang carefully chose the words to use. To make this particular point (of the undeveloped/under-developed and marginalized area) he used ‘New Sudan’ . Further on in the speech, he used ‘Southern Sudan’ to refer to areas related to the referendum and the CPA and so on. In short, the man himself knows/knew the difference – New Sudan is not the Southern Sudan that is now the Republic of South Sudan….
So, he knew exactly what he was saying… New Sudan, the areas under the control of the SPLA/M at that time was indeed the size of those four East African countries.
But the current independent Republic of South Sudan (plus the contested region of Abyei) is not!
There are scores of officials, civil servants, intellectuals and so on who have confidently stated the myth (and they still continue to do so) that the Republic of South Sudan IS larger than those four countries.
During an interview with BBC in 2009, Barnaba Benjamin, at that time the Minister of Regional Cooperation, told the BBC reporter
It’s [South Sudan] bigger than Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi combined
Barnaba Benjamin, is currently the Minister of Information and official spokesperson of the Republic of South Sudan – a post that gives his statements a weight heavier than the land mass of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi combined.
Similarly, a book by Lalia B Lokosang entitle “South Sudan: The Case for Independence & Learning from Mistakes” stated in page 93 that
Late Dr. Garang once put the South Sudan to be the size of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda…
No, he did not.
Another research site of Bucknell University was quick to point out that
While South Sudan is rich in culture, biodiversity, and resources, the people are among the poorest of the world and very little research has occurred there for decades due to conflict
That was after it stated..
Sudan is the largest country in Africa and South Sudan is a region larger than Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda combined…
So What is safe to say…
If you really want people to visualize how huge South Sudan is, then you are safe to say the following
- South Sudan is more than 23 times the size of Rwanda
- South Sudan is larger that Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi put together
- You can say South Sudanese, Rwandese but not Ugandese as is popular in Juba Arabic