Akobo County, Jonglei
2016 population projection: 186,670
Major population centers: Akobo town, Walgak
Major ethnic group: Lou Nuer and Anyuak
Low risk of local population displacement; large numbers of displaced populations received, as destination point and as a stop along the way to Ethiopia. Within the first 10 months of the national conflict, an estimated 17,000 IDPs had migrated to Akobo, from Bor, Malakal and Uror. OCHA reported that both Waat and Akobo town were displacement hotspots from December 2013 through March 2014. The displaced with relatives in the Akobo area were frequently integrated into the community, while most continued to refugee camps in Ethiopia. In May 2015, OCHA reported that an estimated 32,733 IDPs were living in Akobo East. Across Jonglei State, more than 513,000 people remain displaced (OCHA, Mar 2016) and more than 285,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighboring Ethiopia (OCHA, April 2016).
Economy & livelihoods
Part of the “eastern flood plains” livelihood, Akobo County is home to agro pastoralists (ACTED Sept 2013). Agriculture is rain fed and the main crops grown are sorghum, maize, cowpeas, pumpkin, and okra. Livestock rearing complements farming and cattle, goats and sheep are all kept. Traditionally, livestock are not herded great distances but young herders do travel to swampy riverine areas during the dry season. Livelihoods are further supplemented by foraging and fishing. The main markets include Bor Marol Panyagor, Akobo town and Langkien. Akobo and Langkien are mainly supplied from Malakal, although Akobo also has seasonal trade with Ethiopia through the Sobat/Pibor River. The main livelihood hazards include inter communal conflicts and cattle raids, flooding, livestock diseases, pests and drought conditions.
The recent conflict throughout the country imperiled livelihoods in Akobo. The FAO reported abnormal cattle movements throughout the county in 2014 and 2015. It is not clear if traditional routes have been restored. In addition, the presence of a significant displaced persons population has stressed community resources. Before the national conflict, resources were already strained after widespread crop losses from flooding in 2012 diminished the county’s 2013 agriculture production, due to lack of seeds (IRNA Feb 2014). In early 2014, IRNA also reported that markets within Akobo, Uror and Nyirol Counties had been completely cut off with no restocking of food commodities (Feb 2014).
IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016
IPC Projection for Jan Mar 2016: The IPC projected “crisis” levels of food insecurity for January to March 2016. In early 2014, the IPC reported “emergency” levels of food insecurity for the county. The projections decreased to “crisis” levels in April 2015, though the IPC specified that the area would “likely be at least 1 phrase worse” without humanitarian assistance.
Dominant Control during conflict: SPLA/M IO
Throughout most of the 2013 2016 conflict, Akobo County was under SPLA IO control. Immediately following the start of fighting in Juba, Nuers in Akobo County attack the UN base there. The attack was allegedly in revenge of reports that Dinka SPLA soldiers had killed Nuer civilians in Juba. 30 Dinka civilians and two Indian peacekeepers were killed and UNMISS subsequently withdrew from the base. By the end of the 2014, the SPLA IO controlled Akobo, Nyrol and Uror Counties; the government controlled Bor South, Twic East, Pochalla, most of Duk Counties, and Ayod town; and, Fangak and Pigi/Canal Counties remained contested.
Among the opposition, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between SPLA IO fighters and the white army. The white army (Jich Mabor) is an informal network of armed community defense groups in Nuer lands that are mobilized in times of crisis. The term itself precedes the current conflict. Mobilization of the white army is fluid, but reports estimate its size is in the multiple tens of thousands (SAS 2014). In late February, the SPLA IO explicitly worked to return officers to their home areas, assuming that they would be the most effective in mobilizing white armies there. For example, Simon Gatwich Dual returned to Akobo County (SAS, April 2014). Additionally, SPLA defectors appeared to independently return to home areas, for example when Nuer and Dinka SPLA soldiers fought in a military camp in Pochalla, dozens of Nuer soldiers left the camp for Akobo.
While not a frontline of the national conflict, Akobo continued to experience intercommunal tension. For example conflict between Lou Nuer and Anyuak communities are believed to stem from decades of unaddressed land disputes. . In October 2013, the issue reached a boiling point when Lou Nuer youth killed the Anyuak paramount chief, causing thousands to flee to Ethiopia. Then, in November 2015, Lou Nuer fighters killed least 25 of the remaining Anyuak civilians in Akobo town. Additionally, Murle herders seasonally migrate into Nuer and Anyuak areas, which has periodically caused violent confrontations over resources. In 2012 and 2013, conflict between Akobo Lou Nuer and Pibor Murle was particularly violent. According to the UN, around 120,000 people were affected by the cycles of raids. However, within the complicated Jonglei alliance structures, the Murle Cobra Faction in Pibor worked to improve the relationship with northern neighbors, so as to stay neutral in the larger civil war. In March 2015, the Small Arms Survey reported that local peace talks and Murle Nuer intermarriages had resumed, that the road connecting Pibor and Akobo Counties had reopened, and that conflict resolution mechanisms appeared to be in place.
Geography & logistics
Alali, Barmach, Bilkey, Buong, Deng Jok, Diror, Nyandid, Walgak
Akobo is located in the northeastern part of the state and borders Ethiopia to the east. Several rivers flow across the county. The Rivers Geni, Agwei, Kong Kong, and Akobo all flow into the River Pibor near Akobo town. The River Pibor becomes the River Sobat to the north. The area is characterized by lowland plains, covered in savannah grassland, bush and scattered trees. To the north, Akobo borders Ulang and Nyirol Counties in Upper Nile State. Along the west and south, it borders Uror, Pibor and Pochalla Counties.
A main road connects Akobo to Bor. Secondary roads connect Akobo to Pibor, Boma (via Pochalla), Malakal (through Waat). The River Pibor flows north through Akobo into the River Sobat and is an important riverine transport.
All season fixed-wing airstrips
Information last updated: 26/08/16
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