Did South Sudan lift travel visa requirements for East Africans?

A reported tweet by South Sudan’s regime leader, Salva Kiir, raised expectations that travel from across the Eastern African region into South Sudan will soon be visa free.

While the war torn country is a member of the Northern Corridor Integration Projects group, in short NCIP, South Sudan is, however, not a member of the East African Community (EAC), to a large part due to the internal conflict but also for lack of harmonization of key policy, legislative, and regulatory issues which are mandatory before a new country can be admitted into the EAC.

While all efforts were made to obtain authentication and confirmation of the new deal, it was impossible to obtain an answer by email or phone from the South Sudan mission in Kampala or their foreign office in Juba.

No one can, therefore, say with any level of certainty if the visa deal will only be available for citizens of the NCIP countries of Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda – Kiir made specific reference to Rwanda in his tweet – or if all East African Community members including Tanzania and Burundi – these two are not part of the NCIP block – will benefit from it. No confirmation could be obtained either if the “Interstate Pass” travel arrangements for expatriates in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda will apply, which allows holders of residency and work permits in the three countries to freely cross the borders without visa requirements.

A travel agent in Kampala on condition of anonymity said: “Unless this becomes a formal notice by South Sudan’s immigration department it is only an expression of intent. A tweet cannot substitute formal announcements and therefore we will not raise hopes for our clients when they fly to Juba [RwandAir flies daily from Entebbe to Juba under fifth freedom rights]. If they are serious they will make a proper announcement, say when the new arrangement comes into effect and for whom it applies. This is all very vague right now and while people got excited on the social media, do remember how long it took to implement the NCIP travel arrangements with ID cards and so forth.”

It is, therefore, advisable to monitor the situation and await formal notices to be published before expecting any change when traveling to South Sudan by either road or air.