Place:Wau, South Sudan

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Huts outside Wau, 2008
Huts outside Wau, 2008
Arabic: واو نار
English: "Wau is Fire, Wau Is Light, Wau Shall Not Sleep"
Wau is located in South Sudan
Wau is located in Africa
Coordinates: [ ⚑ ] : 07°42′00″N 28°00′00″E / 7.7°N 28°E / 7.7; 28
Country South Sudan
RegionBahr el Ghazal
StateWestern Bahr el Ghazal
CountyWau County
433 m (1,420 ft)
 • Total320,752[1]
Time zoneUTC+2 (CAT)

Wau (Arabic: واو; also known as Wow, Waw, or Wau Town)[2] is a city in northwestern South Sudan, on the western bank of the Jur River, that serves as capital for Western Bahr el Ghazal (and formerly Wau State).[3] It lies approximately 650 kilometres (400 mi) northwest of the capital Juba.[4] A culturally, ethnically and linguistically diverse urban center and trading hub, Wau is also the former headquarters of Western Bahr el Ghazal.


Wau was initially established by the France as Fort Desaix[5] and later was established as a zariba (fortified base) by slave-traders in the 19th century. During the time of condominium rule, the city became an administrative center.

One of the first insurgent Anyanya attacks on the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) took place on the Wau barracks in January 1964.

During the Second Sudanese Civil War, Wau remained a SAF garrison town. It was the scene of extensive fighting in the spring of 1998. Battles erupted again in the town in the spring of 1980s, killing several hundred people. This forced the Dinka in Wau to seek safety in the eastern side of Wau. The Dinka were said to have migrated to the state today known as Warrap.

In 2010, the Ministry of Housing, Physical Planning and Environment proposed to reshape the city as a giraffe.[6]

South Sudanese Civil War

The refugee camp at Wau town's Catholic cathedral, where around 8,500 IDPs had found shelter during the 2016–18 Wau clashes.[7]

Following the outbreak of the South Sudanese Civil War, the town has experienced numerous clashes, massacres, and much destruction at the hands of anti-government as well as government forces. In April 2014, Nuer soldiers belonging to the local SPLA garrison mutinied after hearing of a massacre at Mapel. They clashed with SPLA loyalists, and then fled into the rural countryside, joining a long march of other deserters to Sudan.[8] About 700 Nuer civilians subsequently sought protection at Wau's UNMISS base; most of them were family members of the deserted soldiers, while others were students.[9]

In 2016, Wau experienced heavy clashes that displaced much of its Fertit population and led to widespread destruction.[10] In April 2017, Dinka soldiers of the SPLA and Mathiang Anyoor militiamen carried out a massacre of non-Dinka civilians in the town, killing up to 50 people,[11][12] and displacing thousands.[13]


The population of Wau is ethnically diverse. Most of the inhabitants are Luo and Fertit, as the town lies on the tribal boundary between these two peoples.[14] Furthermore, minorities belonging to the Dinka of Marial Baai, peoples can be found in Wau.[15] Due to its diversity, Wau has repeatedly suffered from ethnic violence.[7][16][17]


In 2008, Wau was the third-largest city in South Sudan, by population, behind national capital Juba and Malakal, in Upper Nile State. At that time, the estimated population of the city of Wau was about 128,100.[18] In 2011, the city's population was estimated at about 151,320.[19]

Year Population[20]
1973 52,800
1983 58,000
1993 84,000
2010 128,100
2011 151,320


Its Cathedral of St. Mary (built 1905, before the erection of the former Apostolic Prefecture of Bahr el-Ghazal) is the episcopal see of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wau, which serves the province's religious majority.


Wau cattle market, 2008

Wau is a vibrant economic center by the standards of the newly established Republic of South Sudan, and serves as hub for trade between Darfur, Bahr al Ghazal, and Equatoria.[14] The major contributors to the local economy include:

  • Buffalo Commercial Bank branch
  • Equity Bank (South Sudan)[21] branch
  • Ivory Bank branch
  • Kenya Commercial Bank (South Sudan) branch[22]
  • Catholic University of South Sudan, Wau campus
  • University of Bahr El-Ghazal
  • Wau Airport
  • Wau County Government
  • Wau state Government
  • RCS - Radio & Satellite Communication
  • Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (South Sudan Subsidiary Comp.) expected shortly

Transport and infrastructure

St Mary Cathedral in Wau
St Mary Cathedral in Wau
  • Wau Railway Station - is the terminus of a narrow gauge branch line of the Sudan Railways. A plan exists, as of 2008, to open a standard gauge line north from Gulu in Uganda to Wau. Through trains from Khartoum to Mombasa would be possible only if one of the lines was regauged. Its functionality would depend on post-conflict reconstruction.
  • Wau Airport - The airport, (IATA: WUU, ICAO: HSWW) has a single paved runway which measures 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) in length.
  • The city hosts University of Bahr El-Ghazal and many secondary and primary schools.
  • The Catholic University of South Sudan maintains a campus in the city.[23]
  • Wau Stadium - A soccer stadium in the middle of town
  • The Cathedral of St. Mary in Wau was built between 1951 and 1956.
  • There are five (5) main roads out of town:
    • B38-North leads directly north to Gogrial, South Sudan
    • B43-South leads southeast to Tonj, South Sudan
    • A44-South leads directly south to Tumbura, South Sudan
    • B41-West leads west to Raga, South Sudan
    • B43-North leads northwest to Aweil, South Sudan
  • Southern National Park - Located about 100 kilometres (62 mi), by road, south of Wau along A44-South

Geography and climate

Like other parts of South Sudan and the East Sudanian savanna, Wau has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen Aw), with a wet season and a dry season and the temperature being hot year-round. The average annual mean temperature is 27.8 °C (82.0 °F), the average annual high temperature is 34.7 °C (94.5 °F), while the average annual low temperature is 20.9 °C (69.6 °F). The hottest time of year is from March to May, just before the wet season starts. March is the hottest month, having the highest average high at 38.1 °C (100.6 °F) and the highest mean at 30.4 °C (86.7 °F). April has the highest average low at 23.8 °C (74.8 °F). August and July have the lowest average high at 31.4 °C (88.5 °F), with August having the lowest mean at 26.2 °C (79.2 °F). December has the lowest average low at 17.9 °C (64.2 °F).

Wau receives 1,074.5 millimetres (42.30 in) of rain over 102.4 precipitation days, with a distinct wet and dry season like most tropical savanna climates. Almost no rain falls from November to March. August, the wettest month, receives 192.3 millimetres (7.57 in) of rainfall on average. September has 23.7 precipitation days, which is the most of any month. Humidity is much higher in the wet season than the dry season, with February having a humidity at just 26% and August having a humidity at 77%. Wau receives 2777 hours of sunshine annually on average, with the sunshine being distributed fairly evenly across the year, although it is lower during the wet season. December receives the most sunshine, while July receives the least.

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Notable locals

Some of the notable people from Wau include

  • Captain Bulus Abushaka - Famous Sudanese soccer goal keeper
  • Captain Samuel Illario - El Marikh start
  • Clement Mboro - veteran politician
  • Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako - Retired archbishop of Khartoum archdiocese (Sudan, then including South Sudan)
  • Prof Barri Arkanjelo Wanji - veteran Anya Anya /SPLM/A soldier and long serving politician
  • Dan Samuel - National Basketball player and veteran construction manager
  • Joseph Ukel - veteran politician
  • Thon Maker - Former NBA basketball player

See also


  1. "Wau County, Western Bahr El Ghazal State". 
  2. PSI et al. (2014), p. 4.
  3. Fighting in Wau; Red cross calls for civilians to be spared Radio Tamazuj
  4. calculate travel time. "Estimated Road Distance Between Juba And Wau".,+Sudan/to/WUU. 
  5. Vuylsteke, Sarah (December 2018). "IDENTITY AND SELF-DETERMINATION: The Fertit opposition in South Sudan". pp. 5, 16. 
  6. A city shaped like a giraffe? Toronto Star, 18 August 2010, by Maggie Fick, Associated Press
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Thousands of South Sudanese IDPs Take Shelter at Wau Church". Voice of America. 13 December 2016. 
  8. Small Arms Survey (2014).
  9. "UNMISS denies that refuge-seekers in Wau were turned away". Radio Tamazuj. 16 May 2014. 
  10. "President Kiir fires Wau state governor". Sudan Tribune. 24 June 2016. 
  11. "South Sudan: Civilians killed in Wau fighting". Al Jazeera. 10 April 2017. 
  12. Malia Zimmerman (13 April 2017). "South Sudan's silent slaughter: Dinka massacre unchecked by regional, international groups". Fox News. 
  13. "IOM: 8,000 people displaced by Wau violence". Radio Tamazuj. 13 April 2017. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "South Sudan: Gunfights within Bahr el Ghazal capital". Radio Tamazuj. 27 April 2014. 
  15. "Governor strongly denies Mapel massacre claims". Radio Tamazuj. 28 April 2014. 
  16. "South Sudan: Civilians killed in Wau fighting". Al Jazeera. 10 April 2017. 
  17. Michael Atit; John Tanza (10 April 2017). "Gunmen in Government Uniforms Go on Massacre in Wau Town". Voice of America. 
  18. "Estimated Population of Sudanese Cities & Towns In 2010". [|permanent dead link|dead link}}]
  19. "Estimated Population of Waw In 2011". 
  20. "Estimated Population of Wau (1973 - 2010)". [|permanent dead link|dead link}}]
  21. Riungu, Catherine (17 January 2011). "East Africa: Equity Bank Plans Further Expansion in Southern Sudan". The East African (Nairobi). 
  22. KCB Expands Branch Network In South Sudan [|permanent dead link|dead link}}]
  23. Sean, Michael (11 November 2010). "Catholic University Maintains A Campus In Wau". 
  24. "Wau Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 



Sources and external links