Longechuk County, Upper Nile
2016 population projection: 87,935
Major population centers: Maithiang is the county’s capital and largest market. Gul Guk in the northwest corner of the country is another population center. Both lie on a major road connecting Maiwut town to Paloich and Melut
Major ethnic group: Predominantly Jikany Nuer.
Medium risk of conflict and food insecurity related displacement. There was not much information specific to Longochuk County early in the civil war, though OCHA reported that neighboring Nasir County was a displacement “hotspot” beginning in December 2013 and that neighboring counties. In August 2014, IOM concluded an assessment of displaced persons in the Longochuk County specifically (assessing vulnerability of both “returnees” and those displaced from neighboring areas), noting that no prior assessment had been conducted in the area, by IRNA or others. Beginning in October 2014, OCHA reported multiple displaced person sites and significant populations of IDPs in the county. AS of 2016, more than 300,000 persons remain displaced in Upper Nile State as a whole (OCHA).
*National Bureau of Statistics, Population projections for South Sudan by County
Economy & livelihoods
Longochuk County is an agro pastoral area, with livelihoods tied to agriculture, raising livestock, and fishing. 60 percent of households in the county are farmers (FAO 2016) and, unlike most other parts of South Sudan, the staple cereal in Longochuk (and some neighboring counties) is maize. All agriculture is rain fed, with harvests in March. Other crops grown include sorghum, cow peas, pumpkins, and okra. The main livestock reared are cattle, goats, and some chicken. Fish is mainly consumed during the dry season, supplementing diets during the lean months. In 2013, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network reported that populations in the county were of low risk of food insecurity, because of the diversified livelihood sources.
Longochuk also traditionally sees seasonal livestock movement into the county. Pastoralists travel down from Sudan, through Maban County, into Longochuk County and beyond, in search of water and pastures. As elsewhere throughout South Sudan, the seasonal migrations occasionally cause inter communal conflict. Other major hazards to livelihood in the county include floods, drought, and pest damage to crops.
The violence that erupted in December 2013 disrupted the farming cycle and migration patterns, displaced populations, and severely imperiled livelihoods. In August 2014, OCHA reported exceptionally high levels of malnutrition in Longochuk County specifically and, throughout much of 2015, the IPC reported “emergency” levels of food insecurity in the county. In 2014, the FAO reported abnormal livestock migrations east through the county and into Ethiopia. It reported that many traditional migrations from Sudan had resumed in 2015; however, it also noted continued abnormal movements of cattle between Maban and Longochuk.
IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016
The IPC projects “crisis” levels of food insecurity for Longochuk County for January through March 2016. This is a slight improvement from the prior year. From May to September 2015, the IPC reported “emergency” levels of food insecurity in the county.
Dominant Control during conflict: SPLA/M IO and the “white army” forces
Part of the Upper Nile State’s largely Nuer south, Longochuk’s population has aligned with the SPLA IO. Fighting between the SPLA and SPLA IO throughout southern Upper Nile State was one of the principle theatres of violence in the country. During the first four months of the civil war, neighboring Nasir County was the wellspring for SPLA IO recruitment of so called ‘white army’ forces, Nuer militias originally created to defend local communities. By May 2014, however, the SPLA had seized control of Nasir town, and it has maintained (periodically contested) control ever since. The army’s relationship with the surrounding population, however, is turbulent and often violent. The SPLA largely sees itself (and is perceived by locals) as an occupying force in the area. It responds to attacks from local armed Nuer groups aggressively, burning down settlements, and perpetuating violent alterations.
In March 2015, the SPLA began a sustained attack on SPLA IO forces throughout the south. It moved north and east from Nasir town towards Maithiang and Gul Guk in Longochuk County, and into Maiwut and razed villages along the way. The SPLA IO did not have sufficient forces in southern Upper Nile to mount a significant challenge to the SPLA during the dry season. However, given the local population’s hostility towards government forces, it proved extremely difficult for the SPLA to actually hold the southern counties of Longochuk, Nasir, Maiwut, and Ulang.
SPLA and SPLA IO positions in the southern Upper Nile have remained relatively stable since August 2015. The SPLA IO largely controls the south (especially rural areas), but the SPLA is entrenched in Nasir town and several other towns in the region. President Kiir’s October 28 states decree creates a new state, Latjor, out of the majority Nuer counties, including Longochuk, Maiwut, Nasir, and Ulang. The demarcation follows a more general pattern wherein South Sudan’s Nuer communities are separated out from other groups and given their own mono ethnic states. While the measure, on the one hand, accedes to demands for greater federalism, it notably also cuts off the Nuer community from any of the oil reserves in Upper Nile State.
Prior to the civil war, the most significant conflict in Longochuk County was between the local farming community and migrating Sudanese Misseriya cattle herders. In January 2012, the county specified that the pastoralists would only be permitted to enter Longochuk if they came without weapons and did not cut down any trees. Allegedly some groups were still armed, causing conflict in May, but generally the yearly migration process is reported to have been smooth.
Geography & logistics
Dajo, Guelguk, Longochuk, Malual, Pamach, Wudier
Longochuk County shares international borders with Sudan and Ethiopia in the east. It also borders Maiwut, Nasir, Maban and Baliet Counties. Several rivers flow along Longochuk, including the River Adar and River Daga. The entire county is part of the Eastern Flood Plains, characterized by grasslands, forests, and swamps.
Mathiang and Gul Guk lie on a major road that runs from Maiwut in the southeast to Paloich and Melut to the northwest. The logistic cluster reported that the Maiwut Gul Guk portion of the route was closed for all traffic from June 2014 through January and again from May 2015 through January 2016. A smaller road runs along the River Daga, by the county’s border with Maban County, from Dajo town to Gul Guk.
 Note: No further explanation for why is provided.
All season fixed-wing airstrips
Information last updated: 26/08/16
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