Maban County, Upper Nile

General information

2016 population projection: 62,620

Major population centers: Maban town (or Bunj) is the county’s capital and a (small) market town.

Major ethnic group: The population in Maban County is predominantly Mabanese, with a minority Nuer population.

Displacement risk:

Maban County hosts a large population of refugees from Sudan and internally displaced persons from other areas in Upper Nile State.  Over 134,000 Sudanese refugees live in four camps – Doro, Yusuf Batil, Gendrassa and Kaya (previously Jamam) – in Maban County (UNHCR, as of June 2016).  These refugees fled violence between the SPLM/A North and the Sudanese government in Blue Nile State, which began in September 2011.   Maban has also received several thousand IDPs from neighboring Melut and Malakal Counties.

*National Bureau of Statistics, Population projections for South Sudan by County

* about this map

Economy & livelihoods

The predominant livelihood in Maban County is sedentary agro pastoralism.  60 percent of households in the country are farmers (FAO 2016), supplementing their livelihoods by raising (non migratory) livestock, fishing, collecting honey, and making charcoal.  The primary crops grown are sorghum, maize, beans, cowpeas, groundnuts, sesame and okra (FEG 2013).  Other crops include tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and chili.  Cattle are the main livestock of cultural and financial value in the county.  Other livestock raised include goats, sheep, pigs and chickens.  Until 2012, Bunj town was the only location in the county with a (small) market.  Due to the influx of Sudanese refugees, an additional market arose in Yusuf Batil refugee camp.

Historically, migratory pastoralism is another livelihood pillar in the county.  People keep cattle and move them seasonally, according to the availability of pastures and water.  Additionally, the county traditionally sees an annual migration of the nomadic Falata and Arab herders from Sudan in November (FEG 2013).  These herders bring with them an estimated 200,000 head of livestock and remain in Maban until May. 

Cattle movements have been significantly disrupted nationally by the violence, with large scale and long distance displacement of livestock from the conflict affected states as well as concentrated and continuous movements of livestock in small areas (FAO 2014).  In August 2015, the FAO reported normal livestock migrations from Sudan into and through Maban County.  It simultaneously reported abnormal livestock movements within the County and north from Longochuk County.  In many areas of Upper Nile State, pastoralists report significant decreases in their livestock populations.  Additionally, herders among the Blue Nile refugees living in Maban County camps report that lack of veterinarian medicines and vaccines has resulted in increased cattle disease and deaths

IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016

The IPC projects “crisis” levels of food insecurity for Maban County for January through March 2016. The IPC has consistently reported “crisis” levels for the county since the outbreak of violence in 2013.

Historical context

Dominant Control during conflict: SPLA/M and the affiliated Mabanese Defense Force (MDF) 

Maban County largely remains under the control of local Mabanese militias and the SPLA, although late 2015 saw intermittent altercations as SPLA–IO forces moved through the area.  Maban County was relatively peaceful during the first five months of the South Sudanese civil war.  In January 2014, the commissioner affirmed his county’s allegiance to the national government and communities began to organize local defense groups. 

 More immediately, Maban County has struggled to cope with the consequences of Sudan’s civil war over the border.  As of June 2016, more than 134,000 refugees from neighboring Blue Nile State, Sudan have fled into four camps in Maban County (UNHCR).  The scale of the refugee influx has seen host communities significantly outnumbered and natural resources – including, land, food, and shelter material – strained.  Consequently, tensions between the two communities have risen, frequently escalating into violent conflict.  In March 2014, Maban County issued an ultimatum requiring Blue Nile refugees to leave within 24 hours.  Tensions reduced in the second half of 2014, though they continue to periodically erupt, only exacerbated by the perceived asymmetry of aid provided to the two communities by international NGOs. 

Overall, Maban is increasing at the complex intersection of two civil wars.  Host communities target the Sudanese refugees fleeing their own civil conflict.  The Sudanese government has periodically bombed sites in Maban County, claiming that the SPLA was supporting the SPLA North active in Blue Nile, even as the SPLA IO has used rear bases in Blue Nile to train its troops.   Finally, both the SPLA and the SPLA IO have used local militia forces in Maban County, a dynamic repeated throughout Upper Nile State.  The Maban Defence Force (MDF) is a state sanctioned local militia that targeted Nuer civilians in July and August 2014.  The SPLA supports and arms the MDF but does not control it.  In January 2015, tensions emerged between the SPLA and the MDF when the militia refused to integrate into the SPLA.  

About the map *

This map follows the administrative county boundaries 2005-2015. Our aim is to identify key geographic, demographic and historical features of the area, rather than political/administrative issues. In doing so, SSHP expresses no view on the development of the 28 state policy

Geography & logistics


Banashowa, Boung, Junkuata, Jinmakdo, Khor El Amer

Geographical features

Maban County borders the Blue Nile State of Sudan to the east, Longochuk County to the south, and Renk, Melut and Baliet Counties to the west.  The County is part of a large, flat flood plain that eventually drains into the White Nile. The Yabus River is Maban’s only permanent river, located in the southern part of the county. It originates in Ethiopia running through Sudan, into Maban and west towards the White Nile. Several seasonal rivers and streams exist during the rainy season.  Generally, the climate is harsh with extreme temperatures during the dry season and flooding during the rainy season.

Main roads

A major road connects Maban town (or Bunj) west to Melut town, through Paloich.  A secondary road leads east into the Blue Nile region.

All season fixed-wing airstrips



Information last updated: 26/08/16

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