Aweil West County, Northern Bahr el Gahzal
2016 population projection: 228,368
Major population centers: Aweil Town
Major ethnic group: Dinka (Malual)
There have been limited reports of internal displacement or influx of IDPs tied directly to the national conflict. However, aid groups estimate over 70,000 South Sudanese fled into Sudan in the first half of 2016, including from Warrap, and Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal states. They are believed to be fleeing both food insecurity and conflict.
Economy & livelihoods
According to a 2013 IOM assessment, 29 percent of residents listed farming, 29 percent livestock rearing and 27 percent fishing as major livelihood activities. The main crops in Aweil West were reportedly sorghum, maize, groundnut, sesame and vegetables. The County is home to the state capital, Aweil, which has an active market and facilities including a slaughterhouse. Northern towns such as Aweil have traditionally relied heavily on Sudan for imports of staple foods such as flour, millet and sorghum. Trade was reportedly dampened by the official border closure in May 2011, however illegal trade has persisted throughout recent fighting in South Sudan. Similarly, the Juba Rumbek Aweil trade route has continued to function throughout the conflict. Prices and the number of checkpoints have increased, however. Lack of purchasing power, rather than lack of supply, has been the source of food insecurity in Aweil. For example, the price of sorghum in Aweil in March 2016 had increased 392 percent compared to the previous year (sorghum prices had also risen 446 percent in Juba and 408 percent in Wau). Northern Bahr el Ghazal State residents are the most market dependent nation wide, with over 90 percent of households relying on markets as their main source of food supplies after harvest time, according to an April 2016 joint WFP/FAO report.
Protests over unpaid wages have emerged in various Northern Bahr el Ghazal counties in recent years, including the state capital. In April 2016, police in Aweil town reportedly closed down the market as part of a strike over missing salaries. Media reported at least one civilian was wounded, and days later 38 members of the police were arrested.
Historically, there have also been tensions between the Dinka Malual of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state and nomadic Misseryia and Rizeigat tribes of Sudan. The conflict stems from the annual migration of the Sudanese tribes into what is now South Sudan for water and pasture. The tribes have also clashed in the past due to historical abductions and enslavement of Dinka by the Rizeigat tribe. Dinka Maluel hold separate annual peace conferences with the Misseryia and Rizeigat in order to discuss migration routes and how to resolve any conflicts which might arise during the migration. Aweil West has hosted some of these meetings. These conferences have been held annually in recent years; however the process has reportedly been strained by interference from the SPLA and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and hostility among Dinka Malual towards the northern tribes.
IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016
The County is classified as “Crisis” for this time period. According to the Annual Needs and Livelihood Analysis 2014 2015** report, the county’s food security outlook had deteriorated over the reporting period. It had a deficit of 4,624 tons of cereal in 2015.
**A collaborative effort by the Republic of South Sudan, UN agencies and development partners.
Dominant Control during conflict: SPLA
Northern Bahr el Ghazal State has not been majorly affected by the national conflict; however there have been some defections and limited skirmishes between Government and Opposition forces – particularly as rebels seek to cross the state in order to enter Sudan.
In July 2014, first reports of skirmishes in the county emerged. Local authorities told media that SPLA defectors from Western Bahr el Ghazal state were killing civilians and looting homes as they made their way across the county, en route to Sudan. Up to 60 government soldiers and 29 defectors are believed to have died. Government sources admitted to the media in May 2015 that opposition forces under an SPLM/A IO general’s command had gained control of several key areas in Aweil West (and Aweil North County) but there has been no major fighting. In June 2015, forces aligned with the opposition claimed they captured the Achana and Nyinbouli areas of the county. County officials admitted rebels had entered Achana Payam but claimed that, after looting civilians, the rebels withdrew from the area. SPLA forces reportedly captured two Opposition soldiers in the same area later that day, the official said. SPLA and Opposition forces also clashed in Nyinbouli but results were unclear. Analysts speculated that the armed groups were motivated by a lack of food, medicine and weapons, as the food security situation had been particularly dire that year. Media reported that the Government attempted to initiate dialogue with the Opposition commander General Aturjong – an Aweil North native – via religious leaders, but the approach was refused.
The Aweil State Hospital in Aweil town is the only full service hospital in the state, with a capacity of 145 beds during the dry season and 225 during the rainy season. However, the hospital suffers from lack of both human and medical resources. It was reported in June 2016 that the hospital was running out of medicine and had only three doctors after nearly a dozen left due to low wages.
South Sudan’s only rail track also used to run through Aweil on the Wau Bananusa, Sudan route. However, rail operations were suspended sometime after 2010 due to a range of issues, including the border closure, and the track has fallen into disrepair.
Geography & logistics
Achana, Aweil Town, Ayat Centre, Ayat East, Ayat West, Gomjuer Centre, Gomjuer East, Gomjuer West, Mariem East, Mariem West
The region falls under the Western Flood Plains livelihood zone. Both grassland and swampy areas with papyrus reed and pockets of forest are found in this area. The soil varies from clay, loamy and sandy which are suitable for agriculture, to varying degrees. Flooding is a regular concern for both agriculturalists and pastoralists.
The state has a relatively well developed network of primary and secondary roads, concentrated along its northern and eastern edges. State capital Aweil Town connects to Gok Machar (Aweil North County) to its northwest, War Awar (Aweil East County) to its northeast and Wau (Western Bahr el Ghazal State) to its southeast by primary roads. A secondary road runs east out of Aweil Town, through Aweil South County’s Tiaraliet village and into neighboring Warrap State. All these roads are open year round to any type of vehicle.
All season fixed-wing airstrips
Marial Baai, Aweil
Information last updated: 26/08/16
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