Manyo County, Upper Nile

General information

2016 population projection: 190,525

Major population centers:

Major ethnic group: Majority Shilluk. Just across the White Nile, Renk County to is majority Paddang Dinka. Prior to the 2013 conflict, there were also members of Arab tribes originating from the White Nile and Southern Kordofan States, Nuer, Dinka and Brun communities living in Manyo County. It is not clear how many remain after the recent sustained violence and displacement.

Displacement risk:

High risk of conflict related displacement.  Kaka in southern Manyo County was an early displacement “hotspot,” with 34,000 Wau Shilluk and 34,000 Daytom reported displaced in surrounding areas by January 2014 (OCHA).  Nearby Melut town, on the eastern bank of the White Nile in Melut County, became an UNMISS POC site during the fighting.  From November 2015 through February 2016, OCHA reported the area around Wadokona town (Manyo County, west bank of the river) and Renk town (Renk County, east bank) as a displacement “hotspots.”  As of March 2016, more than 300,000 persons are displaced in Upper Nile State as a whole (OCHA).  OCHA reports that nearly 240,000 South Sudanese have fled north to Sudan and more than 280,000 to Ethiopia, many from Upper Nile State (April 2016).  More specifically, OCHA reported that Sudan’s White Nile State housed 93,054 South Sudanese refuges and South Kordofan 21,447 (June 2016).  Both areas border Manyo County.

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

* about this map

Economy & livelihoods

Agriculture and fishing are the main livelihood activities in Manyo County.  Most villages are fairly close to the river and all villages reported fish as an important food source.  About 40 percent of households are farming (FAO 2016).  Sorghum is also the county’s main crop.  Manyo is one of the few counties in the country to practice (rain fed) mechanized sorghum (or, cereal) production on a large scale.  Other food crops produced in the include sweet potato, yams, groundnut, okra, cowpea, pumpkin and a wide variety of vegetables.  Other livelihoods in the county include charcoal making, selling timber, and livestock.  Most households own some large and/or small livestock but it was unclear how much livestock was lost as a result of the conflict.   It is clear that access to meat, milk and income from livestock was reduced (HelpAge April 2016).   

Normal migratory patterns see pastoralists from Sudan travel south through Manyo County during the dry season.  It is unclear to what extent these traditional routes have been disrupted as a result of the fighting since 2013; however, the FAO does not specifically attribute any abnormal patterns to the county (unlike, for example, the new routes reports in neighboring Renk, Melut, and Fashoda Counties.

The combined effect of protracted violence and instability in the county and poor infrastructure to begin with has further fragmented market structures.  A recent HelpAge report finds that village markets are barely functional (April 2016).  The conflict has interrupted successive planting seasons, disrupted the migration of livestock, displaced people and generally imperiled livelihoods in the area.  A concerted SPLA strategy to deny humanitarian access to the west bank of the White Nile has only exacerbated the food crisis (SAS 2016).

IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016

The IPC has consistently projected food insecurity at “crisis” levels for Manyo County, since January 2014. This is partially due, the IPC reports, to the “small [amounts of] humanitarian assistance” available to the county. Projections for Manyo County are consistently one (or more) classifications more food insecure than neighboring Renk County.

Historical context

Dominant Control during conflict:  Manyo County was initially controlled by SPLA IO, challenged by the SPLA with support from Shilluk and Padang Dinka militias.  While SPLA IO lost much of the control in 2015, Shilluk militias subsequently defected from the SPLA.  As of late June 2016, Manyo County remained primarily under the control of Johannes Okiech’s Shilluk Tiger Faction New Forces (TFNF).

Manyo County was one of the principal theatres of conflict with the SPLA IO in Upper Nile State.  In northern Upper Nile State, the SPLA IO focused its military operations on the twin targets of Renk town and Kaka. The former saw some of the fiercest fighting in Upper Nile State.  Renk town is an important transport hub for trade with Sudan and for riverine traffic with Malakal.  It is also home to a number of mechanized agricultural projects that make it one of South Sudan’s most productive food producing counties.  SPLA IO’s control of Wadakona town on the opposite riverbank in Manyo County enabled it to shell Renk town.  With the help of Shilluk and Pandang Dinka militias, the SPLA eventually dislodged the SPLA IO from Wadakona in March 2015, though the opposition maintained a rural presence in the county.   Throughout 2015, the SPLA won significant military victories against the SPLA IO and strengthened its position throughout the State’s northwest.  However, given the difficult fighting terrain and the SPLA IO’s ability to move across the border to bases in Sudan, it proved difficult for the SPLA to entirely prevent attacks launched from Manyo County on Renk. 

Shilluk militias and Johannes Okiech, one of the leading Shilluk SPLA commanders, in particular had been largely responsible for routing the SPLA IO from Wadakona in early 2015.  However, in October 2015, following Kiir’s 28 states decree, Okiech split from the SPLA and announced the creation of the Tiger Faction New Forces (TFNF).  Okiech argued that Kiir’s decree supported Dinka land grabbing of Shilluk territory in Upper Nile State and declared the TFNF would fight the government until it is revoked.  Earlier that year, Shilluk leader Johnson Olonyi and his Agwelek forces had also defected from the SPLA after a series of antagonistic alterations with SPLA supported Padang Dinka militias and bad faith mediation by the government.  The Agweleks took control of Malakal and campaigned north, before being stopped by the SPLA 1st Division coming down from its base in Renk town.  Okiech’s TFNF in Manyo County has not formally joined the SPLA IO, but the group has worked in concert with Olonyi’s Agweleks.  Wadokona and Renk were the site of major clashes between November 2015 and February 2016.  Since February, the east bank of the White Nile has been firmly under SPLA control and its associated Pandang Dinka militia forces, and the west bank under the control of Shilluk forces.  The SPLA is better armed and has better transportation; however the local Shilluk community supports the Shilluk forces.

Tensions between communities in Renk and Manyo Counties precede the most recent national conflict, with long standing disputes over valuable grazing land, fishing areas, and arable land for cultivation (UNDP, 2012).   Borders between the two counties were never clearly demarcated by the South Sudanese government.  In many respects, Kiir’s tripartite division of Upper Nile 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.  Additionally, Manyo County has a history of border disputes with Sudan, over demarcation with Southern Kordofan and White Nile State.

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


Wadakona, Kak, Magenis, Athidhway, and Kwalo

Geographical features

Manyo County borders Sudan to the north and west (South Kordofan and White Nile regions, respectively); Renk and Melut Counties to the east; and Fashoda County to the south.  The White Nile River flows along the Manyo’s eastern border, contributing to several lakes and marshlands throughout the county.

Main roads

The White Nile River is a traditional major source of riverine transport for Manyo County.  In addition, a secondary road runs along the west bank of the White Nile River.  (A major road runs parallel, along the river’s eastern bank in Renk County.)  A major road cuts across the county’s southern area, connecting the Paloich oil fields in neighboring Melut County, through Manyo County, and then west into Sudan.  The logistics cluster has not noted any physical warnings for movement along the river or road since the outbreak of conflict in 2013; however, the cluster explicitly does not account for political or security risks.   The UN and other actors have complained that armed actors have frequently blocked both routes.

All season fixed-wing airstrips

The closest all season fixed wing air strip is across the White Nile River in Renk town.


Information last updated: 26/08/16

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