Every end year, Hot in Juba releases the highly anticipated list of Top 20 South Sudanese who stood out and disrupted the status quo countrywide, during the period under review – between January and December.

We stepped back to observe the honourees’ individual contributions to the collective South Sudanese society in spite of the challenges rocking the country.

From a continually spiking economy, communal conflicts across the country to the flooding that has displaced nearly 1 million people. This team of 20 South Sudanese gritted their teeth and made a difference in 2022.

In honour of the disruptors, Hot in Juba’s editorial team combed through a pool of worthy contenders to create a lean list of 20 individuals who truly stood out.

You may be wondering what makes an individual influential enough to be featured on Hot in Juba’s list of Top 20 South Sudanese?

Our editorial team plus 3 independent intellectuals sat down and screened over 100 individuals who were initially nominated. The individuals picked are those whose notable achievements created an impact above and beyond.

At the beginning, nearly 100 individuals were nominated to the list and later narrowed to about 50 individuals and taken through a rigorous vetting process by our team to hive off only 20 individuals from the broader list.

In this edition of the annual list, with no particular order, we have listed individuals from all sectors including politics, sports, art, music, tech, humanitarian and so on.

The list narrows down as we get towards the end of the list because in the beginning, we involved a sample selection of many people to give nominations in different categories of the people we feel have had a profound impact in their sector, and enjoy a certain level of notable experience that actually shows a consistent path. So, it is not just one hit wonders.

The list:

1. Rin Tueny – Governor of Lakes State

In the recently concluded Governor’s Forum, the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), a leading civil society organization named him “the Governor of the Year.” He was awarded of all the ten state ggovernors for reducing inter-communal violence in Lakes State and rooting for a law that prohibits child marriage in the state. If that is not enough, then the famous “Pam Ke” phrase that took social media by the storm can serve as a good reminder of his achievements.

In the viral “Pam Ke” video, the governor outlines his educational vision for the State as the citizens applaud him with a clap of hand. “Pam Ke” is a Dinka sentence for “a round of applause!”

Netherlands based Peace Organization (PAX) also in April, 2022, mentioned governor Rin in its reports for improving security in the state.

2. Luol Deng – South Sudan Basketball Federation’s President

Luol Deng is already a household name in the country. As the president of South Sudan’s Basketball Federation (SSBF), he was instrumental in assembling a team that humbled the bbasketball giants of the continent and led to winning streak in the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers. The national basketball team is now one win away to qualify for FIBA World Cup in 2023.

The unity and smile he has put on our faces is only second to the one witnessed during the independence anniversary as seen by the crowd that received the team back from Tunisia in August 2022.

The teams’ triumph united South Sudanese and exposed the country for something positive other than the usual inter-communal fighting and civil wars the country is known for.

3. Kuany Kuany – National men’s basketball team captain

Luol Deng takes the credit for assembling the team but their driving force in the court is non other than Captain Kuany Kuany. “He was responsible for all the on-court motivation that made the team victorious. Born in 1994 in Egypt, Kuany moved to Australia as a refugee with his parents. He had a chance of joining the Australia’s basketball team but opted to return home and played for South Sudan.

4. Kuel Aguer – Politician, champion of freedom of speech

He is the former Governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State. He was set free by the court on Dec. 9th 2022 following a nearly 1-year detention by government for speaking against the government. He makes the list because in his lawyer’s own words; “Kuel’s win in court is a victory to the nation and citizens who wish to criticize their government. It is also a victory for freedom of speech.” CEPO also referred to the win as a step in the long-awaited judicial reforms towards independence of judiciary.

He was charged in July 2021 under several sections of the Penal Code Act for attempting to overthrow the government by organizing unauthorized assembly and causing violence to the public.

5. Adija Acuil – Newspaper cartoonist, caricaturist

This famous cartoonist doesn’t need an introduction. He is the reason most South Sudanese still buy newspapers. His cartoons favour nobody and pleases nobody while entertaining, educating and reminding every South Sudanese about the evils and goods in our society.

6. Napoleon Adok – Director General, National Communications Authority

He is the Director General of the National Communications Authority (NCA). He is christened with a lot of abusive names when he gave the telecommunication companies the go-ahead to increase tariffs in alignment to the Central Bank’s forex exchange rates. However, his achievements in that sector are so many that he deserves to be on this list. Top on the list of his accomplishments is the connectivity of rural areas to telecommunication networks.

Villages as far as Kuron Peace Village towards the Kenyan border in Kapoeta County, other far villages in the north of country that have never had a telephone network connection since independence were connected courtesy of the Universal Services Access Fund under the leadership of Mr Adok.
The NCA under his leadership, has been at the forefront of cyber security literacy for South Sudanese.

7. John Frog – Musician

Hate him or love him, 2022 has been his year. His “Action and energy” hit song became an anthem for every social gathering, no wonder, most South Sudanese voted for him wholeheartedly when he got nominated for AFRIMMA Awards alongside other musical heavy weights in the East African region like Eddy Kenzo of Uganda, Kenya’s Kaligraph Jones among others.

He is currently the most sought-after singer in the country for performance, perhaps explaining why he has shared stage with more international artists in 2022 than any other local singer

8. Emmanuel Bida – Journalist, fact-checker

He might not be a household name but his influence has surpassed all the corners of South Sudan. If this order was a chronological one, he deserves to be on the top; considering his achievements compared to the resources at his disposal.
This self-proclaimed meal student wears many hats. Apart from being a trained Primary Teacher, Journalist and a social media influencer, he is popular among netizens for his role as the coordinator for 211 Check, a flagship project of “Defy Hate Now”.

He trains journalists, activists, community-based leaders and digital enthusiasts on fact checking and information verification. He also teaches internet research, social media management and marketing as well as Google Productivity tools. Some people call him the bridge to better journalism in the country for his role in combating hate speech and fake news through his work with 211 Check.

One local commentator says, Bida literally fills in the gaps left open by the media training institution.
He is responsible for the ongoing combating of health disinformation in the country especially COVID-19.

His achievements are endless and most recently, he represented South Sudan at a continental fact-checking fellowship.

9. Dut Majak – Founder of Shilu Ana, Entrepreneur, Innovator

As the C.E.O and founder of “Shilu Ana,” a ride hailing app like Uber, he employs over 50 South Sudanese.
The 34 year old Software Engineer is a holder of 4 Degrees in Information Technology and Business.
He is also the developer of Juba Cars App, a market place for cars as well as Karibu, a food and grocery delivery App. He is holding South Sudan’s torch in terms of innovation.
Shilu Ana’s story is that of consistency and resilience. From a humble beginning of less than five cars in 2019, to more than 50 drivers using the app as of today.

10. Nagomoro Bridget – Girl child education champion

She is currently a university lecturer and the founder of Ibba Girls School. She founded the school in 2014, with only 40 pupils but currently it has over 300 pupils of 10-15 years of age. She makes our list for her efforts in laying a foundation for women empowerment through education.
As the first female ccommissioner in South Sudan of Ibba County after the 2010 elections in the then Sudan, she found herself the only woman among men in lowering the flag of Sudan and raising that of South Sudan on 9th July, 2011 in Western Equatoria. She also served as Health Minister for Maridi State in the defunct 32 States.

11. Valentino Achak — Literacy champion

What Is The What, the 2006 finalist for the National Book Awards by the award-winning author, Dave Eggers, about Valentino’s journey from a rural childhood in then southern Sudan, to becoming one of the country’s thousands of ‘Lost Boys’ can serve as a good introduction.

The owner of Built Mark It Construction Company, which employs over 50 South Sudanese, makes the list for the work done by his Valentino Foundation (VAD) in the field of Education

Besides Marial Bai Secondary School and the Alok Girls’ Academy, the VAD Foundation now also teaches vocational skills and farming techniques, so that rural young people, particularly women, can become self-sufficient, start their own businesses, and have ambitions beyond marriage and raising children.

12. Jok Madut Jok — Political analyst, good governance advocate and illiteracy champion

He is perhaps famous among South Sudanese for his academic and political prowess, but he makes our list for his role in educating the children of South Sudan.

The founder of Marol Academy, a community primary school in Warrap State. It opened in 2008 with 350 students and seven teachers. The Academy is one of a handful of functioning schools in the state. Unusually, in a region where women have historically been excluded from education, it has more girl pupils than boys, the result of an extended campaign to persuade local families to send their daughters to school. The Academy is, in the words of its founder, Dr Jok Madut Jok, “a girls’ school that accepts boys”.

13. Abul Oyay — Artist

Abul Oyay is a South Sudanese painter. Her work depicts the struggle of South Sudanese from the early ‘90s to present. She is inspired by the strong women around her, observing motherhood: raising children on their own, while the men were on the front line. The founder of Boabab House which showcases the pieces of various artists and attracts individuals who want to taste another side of South Sudan.

14. Robert Ariik — Digital and online safety expert

He is the director of SafetyComm, an online community/platform that provides tools, methodologies and resources for the online safety of social media users and digital natives in South Sudan.

As the director, he is responsible in providing technical training, user education, community experience sharing, rapid response to social media safety incidents, capacity building to various beneficiary stakeholders as well as assist in the creation of public awareness and building of public trust on the SafetyComm initiative in South Sudan.

15. Rachel Hakim — Digital entrepreneur

A South Sudanese entrepreneur who developed an online streaming platform – GoGo Play, an audio streaming platform that hosts South Sudanese music, entertainment contests such as drama, events, and cultural shows. She is also the winner of a recent regional innovation award that was held in Rwanda.

16. Sarah Chan — Basketball scout, girl child rights advocate

Ever heard of someone saved a 15 year old girl who was going to be married off. That is Sarah Chan, after seeing the picture of the girl, Chan was convinced that she had found a great basketball prospect. She would then take a flight to Juba, South Sudan the next day from Nairobi, Kenya, and convinced the parents of the girl to let her play basketball. A few days later, the girl was in a training camp in Senegal, training with the Raptors team there.

Apart from meeting former US President Barrack Obama and making BBC’s current list of most influential women in Africa, she is not only the first South Sudanese but first African woman to become a Scouting Manager for an NBA franchise.

Sarah Chan, who began playing basketball in 2004, would 15 years later become the Africa Scouting Manager for NBA champions Toronto Raptors.

17. Akuol Garang — Filmmaker

Besides being the daughter of South Sudan’s founding father Dr John Garang de Mabior, she has made a name for herself in film industry. Akuol de Mabior is a South Sudanese filmmaker based in Nairobi, Kenya. She has directed one feature-length film and four shorts.

“No Simple Way Home”, her feature-directorial debut, had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2022 becoming the first South Sudanese film to screen at the celebrated event. The film has gone on to win the prestigious Dok.horizonte Award at Dok.fest in Munich, Germany, best African documentary and the Adiaha Award for best documentary by an African woman both at Encounters South Africa.

18. Juliana Siapai — Multimedia journalist, influencer, entrepreneur

Juliana Siapai is a talented and dedicated journalist, influencer, and youth activist who in 2022 made changes in South Sudan. She has a passion for using her platform to shed light on important social and political issues facing South Sudan, and has become known for her fearless reporting and commitment to justice and equality.

Siapai’s work has focused on a range of topics, including human rights violations, corruption, and the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. She has used her social media presence and public speaking abilities to raise awareness about these issues and inspire others to take action.

In addition to her journalism work, Siapai is also actively involved in youth activism and promotion of local youth-led businesses. She has organized and participated in numerous events and initiatives aimed at empowering young people and giving them a voice in the decision-making process.

Overall, Juliana Siapai is a highly respected and influential figure in South Sudan, and her tireless efforts to bring about positive change in South Sudan is truly admirable.

19. 2nd Lt. Paul Pio Louis — Traffic Police officer

Traffic police department is arguably the most hated government institution in South Sudan, particularly Juba city. This is because of extortion, heavy fines and disturbances meted out on motorists by the “men/women in white”. This act is highly regarded unlawful by road users. The existence of officers like Paul Pio Louis in the force gives hopes to civilians to still trust the department.
Nothing deters Paul; when he’s on duty, not even scorching hot sun of Juba or heavy downpours can stop him.
Every driver in Juba knows him for his dedication. Paul Pio Louis is a diligent civil servant, a traffic police officer deployed at the busy Mudiriya roundabout in Juba.
He’s seen adding flavours and styles to his hand gestures while directing motorists, an act which attracts smiles, waves and sometimes hi-fives from the road users.
In September, Paul was recognised by the Rotary Club of Juba and issued a certificate of appreciation for his instrumental role which results to smooth traffic flow at the busy junction that links Juba Town, Konyokonyo, Custom, Airport and Malakia.
He makes our list for his dedication to his work and services to the motorists in Juba.

20. Josephine Kiden — Miss Deaf Africa

Josephine Kiden is an inspirational young woman who has overcome many challenges in her life. She was born with hearing defects, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream of modeling. The first deaf model to represent South Sudan at international pageants, Josephine’s story is an uplifting one that will inspire others around the world.

In 2021, she won Miss Deaf Africa, a beauty pageant held in Tanzania.

In addition to being a model, Miss Kiden is also an activist who advocates for deaf education and makes motivational videos about it.

She is known for being both resilient and having an infectious smile. Last year, she was shot by unknown gunman in Juba and was flown to Nairobi for medical attention courtesy of the presidency.