Tonj South County, Warrap

General information

2016 population projection: 57,653

Major population centers: Tonj is the largest city in Warrap State, with an estimated population of 97,340 (2010). It lies between the larger towns of Rumbek (approx. 153 km to southeast) and Wau (approx. 108 km to northwest), and is a significant transit point for traders. A smaller road connects Tonj to a secondary town, Thiet, to the north.

Major ethnic group: Rek Dinka, including Thony, Apuk Jurwiir, Muok, and Yaar (Yar ayiei) communities.

Displacement risk:

Medium risk of food insecurity related displacement.  Warrap State is not among the states most affected by the national conflict, nor does Tonj South County receive large number of displaced.

A recent UNHCR report states that more than 50,000 South Sudanese refugees have fled to Sudan since late January 2016 from neighboring Northern Bahr al Ghazal State and Warrap States.  The exact county of origin is unclear.   Refugees are largely driven by ongoing conflict and severe food insecurity, the result of poor harvests, restricted trade, depreciating currency and steeply rising staple food prices.

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

* about this map

Economy & livelihoods

The majority of communities are agro pastoralist, engaged in cattle rearing (36 percent), subsistence farming (37 percent), and fishing (25%) (2009 IOM State report).  Planting is conducted during the rainy season, though some cultivation also occurs during summer.  The main crops are sorghum, simsim, millet, and groundnuts.  The economic use of the cattle herds is limited, as meat as well as production of dairy products is not common. Yet, culturally, cattle are highly valued and play an important role in society and are a sign of wealth.

It is common to find large settlements and cattle camps along River Tonj, which flows from south to north in the county.  An over reliance on cattle, however, has led to significant intercommunal conflict over the need to secure good grazing land and limited water points.  Livelihoods are also imperiled by periodic flooding in the area.  40,000 people from Tonj South County were displaced from their homes due to the floods in October 2013.

Kuajok (capital of Warrap State) is the main market for foodstuffs, with smaller trading centers located throughout the state.  Tonj is the largest town between Rumbek and Wau; however chronic insecurity, poor infrastructure, and week governance has frequently discouraged traders in the area.   Movement between Tonj and Rumbek, for example, was difficult from mid to late 2015, during which communal violence decreased security.

IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016

In December 2015, the IPC updated the Jan Mar food security projection for Tonj South from stressed to Crisis. The IPC now predicts at least one fifth of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The food security crisis is caused by disrupted trade (due to localized insecurity) and prolonged dry spells throughout the country, resulting in reduced crop harvests (contrary to the September 2015 forecasts).

Historical context

Dominant Control during conflict:  SPLA/M

While Warrap State remained somewhat removed from the national level fighting between SPLA/M and the SPLA IO, the State continues to suffer recurrent intercommunal fighting.   Interrelated causes of the violence include competition over limited water and land/border disputes; violent cattle raiding (especially during the dry season); the high prevalence of small arms; and revenge attacks.

In May 2015, fighting began again over a land dispute in Majakkot between Thony and Muok.  Apuk Jurwiir and Yar ayiei communities joined the conflict alongside Muok communities, fighting Thony.  Clashes over grasslands and land disputes also include Abarkou (between Thony and Yar ayiei communities), and Atap Nhom grasslands.  Overall, intermittent fighting spans four counties to include Tonj South and Lake State’s counties of Cueibet and Rumbek North.

While the many sections have fought for years over access to grazing land and water, some police and local officials blame the recent violence on politicians and rivalries concerning the local government.  Tonj State governor Akec Tong Aleu confirmed that clashes have occurred between his Thony section and the Abuok section of the former foreign affairs minister, Nhial Deng Nhial.

In December 2015, the Governor of Warrap claimed that the clashes over the grasslands were over and the fighting contained; however, reports of violence continued into March 2016.  In May, the Government launched a disarmament program throughout the State.  The SPLA have used force when several Thony youths refused to peacefully hand over firearms.   Some individuals from Thony community have accused the government of committing atrocities in their villages.  News reports confirm that three people were injured in clash between SLPA forces and armed pastoralists.

In May 2016, authorities gathered in Tonj to protest IGAD, UNMISS and JMEC’s refusal to recognize the new 28 state structure decreed by Kiir in October 2015.  Authorities stated that the people of Tonj State will not accept “the return to Kuacjok again if former Warrap State is re united.”

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


Tonj town, Thiet, Wanhalel, Jak, Manyangok (2009 IOM report)

Geographical features

The River Tonj flows from south to north, bisecting Tonj South County and passing along Tonj town, before eventually becoming part of the Bahr al Bhazāl River.  Northern Tonj South County is part of the Western Flood Plains; the southern part of the county is part of the Ironstone Plateau.

Main roads

A43 is the largest road through Tonj South.  It connects Tonj to Rumbek in the southeast and Wau in the northwest.  Rain and poor conditions can make the road difficult at times for large trucks to navigate the road.  A smaller road leads directly north from Tonj to Thar Jath (Unity State) where it merges with the Yirol (Lakes State) – Bentiu (Unity State) road.

All season fixed-wing airstrips

None.  Closest fixed wing airfield is Marial lou (Tonj North County, Warrap State).  There is also an airfield in Wau (Western Bahr el Ghazal), and an operation hub in Rumbek (Lakes State).


Information last updated: 26/08/16

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