Baliet County, Upper Nile
2016 population projection: 52,961
Major population centers: Baliet city is the County capital and its most populous area.
Major ethnic group: Padang Dinka are the predominant ethnic group in Baliet County. Historically, the county also has Nuer, Berta, and Shilluk communities (OCHA 2009). It is not clear what minority populations remain after the recent sustained violence and displacement.
High risk of conflict related displacement and large populations of refugees. Baliet has received significant populations of displaced persons, especially those fleeing violence in neighboring Malakal, for the length of the civil war. In early 2014, Baliet town and Gel Achel were reported to be displacement “hotspots” and, throughout 2014 and 2015, OCHA reported severe humanitarian needs for the displaced residing in the county. As conflict in Upper Nile State took on ethnic dimensions, so have refugee routes – Nuers have moved southwards towards parts of Northern Jonglei, Dinkas northwards towards Akoka County, Sudan (or other neighboring countries) or Juba.
*National Bureau of Statistics, Population projections for South Sudan by County
Economy & livelihoods
Baliet County is part of the Eastern Flood Plains Livelihood Zone, located in the northeast corner of South Sudan and home to several different agro pastoralist groups. The main economic activities in the county are agriculture and fishing. 30 percent of households are famers (FAO 2016) and the main crops grown are sorghum, maize, cowpeas, and pumpkin (ACTED 2013). Baliet County is one of only a handful of counties in the country where mechanized cereal (or, sorghum) production is practiced on a large scale, following patterns of land occupancy established prior to independence. Agriculture is rain fed with the rainy season lasting from May to October. During the dry season, households fish the White Nile and River Sobat. Traditionally, cattle raids, livestock diseases, crop pests and drought are the major factors affecting livelihoods.
The county is also home to cattle herders and part of traditional pastoral migratory routes. Cattle movements have been significantly disrupted nationally by the sustained violence, with large scale and long distance displacement of livestock from the conflict affected states. Throughout 2014, FAO reported significant abnormal livestock movements heading north, east and west out of Baliet. In 2015, some normal migration patterns from Sudan were followed as well as continued abnormal movements north and within the county.
IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016
Food security for the Baliet County has alternated “crisis” and “emergency” levels since the onset of violence in December 2013. In December 2015 projections, the IPC justified its “emergency” classification with reference to the total lack of harvests and functioning markets and the need for significant humanitarian food aid for more than 20 percent of the County population. For January through March 2016, the IPC projected food security in the county would be at “crisis” levels.
Dominant Control during conflict: SPLA/M and associated local militia groups, but contested.
Forces aligned with the government control the east bank of the White Nile, including Baliet, Akoka, Malakal, Melut and Renk counties. SPLA forces are supported by a number of Padang Dinka militia groups, including the Abu Shoq from Baliet County and the Mathloum (Dinka for “injustice”) from Akoko County.
Initially, conflict in Upper Nile State between the SPLA, the SPLA IO, and both of their associated local militias had three principle theatres: the battle for southern Upper Nile (focused around Nasir), the battle for Renk and Wadakona in northern Upper Nile, and sustained violence around Malakal. Caught between the three, Baliet County received a significant and sustained influx of displaced persons, especially from neighboring Malakal.
Alliances between groups and the government are dynamic and shifting. Following significant SPLA victories against the SPLA–IO in the area in 2015, underlying antagonism between Padang Dinka and Shilluk communities and their militias (both formerly supporting SPLA advances) re emerged. In May 2015, Shilluk militias defected from the side of the government, took over Malakal town, and began to march north through the state.
President Kiir’s October 2015 28 states decree only further exacerbated the conflict between the government, Padang Dinka, and Shilluk communities. The new map divides Upper Nile State into three new states. Most controversial is the arrogation of the east bank of the White Nile River —which is claimed by the Shilluk—to Eastern Nile state. The Shilluk claim several areas in Akoka and Baliet Counties as their own, as well as Malakal and Pigi County, in Jonglei state. All of these contested regions are included in the new Eastern Nile State. In general, the decree comes after—and is consistent with—a decade of administrative and political measures that have attempted to force the Shilluk off the east bank of the White Nile. Both sides cite historical claims to the disputed areas.
Geography & logistics
Abwong, Adong, Akotweng, Gel AChel, Kuel, Nyongrial, Wunthow
Baliet County is located in the center of Upper Nile State, bordering Akoka, Panyikang, Malakal, Fashoda, Melut, Maban, Longochuk, Nasir, Ulang Counties as well as Nyirol in Jonglei State. The county is part of the Eastern Flood Plains, a large, flat flood plain that eventually drains into the White Nile. The White Nile River flows along its northwest border, the Rivers Sobat and Fulus flow across the southwest corner of the county, and the River Adar across the northeast. Several seasonal rivers, streams, marshlands and lakes exist during the rainy season.
A major road runs across southern Baliet County, connecting Baliet town to Malakal town in the west and Nasser town in the east. In April and May 2016, the logistics cluster issued a warning for the Baliet Nasser road, reporting it to be “passable with warning.” A secondary road runs north south, connecting Nasser to Melut.
All season fixed-wing airstrips
None in Baliet County. The closest all season fixed wing airstrip is in Malakal.
Information last updated: 26/08/16
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