Ezo County, Western Equatoria
2016 population projection: 102,361
Major population centers: Ezo town lies on the border with both the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).
Major ethnic group: The population in Ezo County is predominantly Azande, with some Fertit, Jur Chol and Balanda Bor groups.
High risk of displacement from conflict and food insecurity. Beginning in August 2015, OCHA reported the presence of three refugee locations in south Ezo County. From December 2015 through February 2016, OCHA designated Ezo’s border with CAR and DRC a displacement “hotspot.” As of April 2016, UNHCR reports that 11,120 South Sudanese have sought refuge in DRC and 10,454 in CAR. Many of the displaced come from Ezo and Nzara Counties. Additionally, 3,200 Congolese refugees who had lived in Ezo for years after fleeing Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) terror in their own country were again displaced. As of March 2016, more than 93,000 persons remain displaced in Western Equatoria State (OCHA). Violence related displacement is compounded by food insecurity.
*National Bureau of Statistics, Population projections for South Sudan by County
Economy & livelihoods
Known as the “Green Belt,” the Equatorias include some of the most fertile land in the country. Farmers in the area can reap two or three harvests per annum from the same plots. In Ezo County, 50 percent of households are farmers (FAO 2016). In addition, pastoral communities from neighboring states migrate seasonally into Western Equatoria, frequently clashing with local farming communities.
In November 2015, Western Equatoria as a whole experienced one of its worst crop harvests in recent history. Dry spells combined with dramatically decreasing security across the state reduced crop production, disrupted markets, displaced populations, sharply increased marked prices, and generally imperiled local livelihoods. Heavy fighting across Western Equatoria State throughout 2015 disrupted trade flows along the main Juba Yambio and reduced functioning of Yambio market. Grain prices, already on the rise since February 2015, doubled between April and June 2015. Price shocks in the area transmit to other parts of the country.
IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016
The IPC projected “minimal” food insecurity for Ezo County for January through March 2016. The county was recently designated as “stressed” from August to December 2015.
Dominant Control during conflict: SPLA/M originally.
Violence in Western Equatoria State has followed a distinct trajectory from that in the Greater Upper Nile. After the signing of the Peace Agreement in August 2015, the detention of several leaders, including the popular Western Equatoria Governor Bakosoro, alienated many Equatorians from the central government. In addition, SPLM/A IO incitement and military support began to turn largely local uprisings into full scale rebellions throughout Western Equatoria State. Aggressive responses by the SPLA displaced thousands and exacerbated the violence.
In Ezo County, fighting between armed groups and the SPLA in Ezo town in November 2015 displaced thousands of people. In February 2016, reports accused the SPLA of continuing attacks on bases of opposition fighters, even after declared ceasefires, including one attack in Ezo County. While the fighting has subsided throughout Western Equatoria since February, the aftermath combined with food insecurity and severe humanitarian funding shortages have caused over 10,000 South Sudanese to cross the border and seek asylum in CAR and another 11,000 people to cross into DR Congo (OCHA, May 2016). In April, the Commissioner of Ezo County stated that much of the county lacked water and basic services.
Loosely coordinated groups of primarily young men have (re)militarized throughout the Equatorias and are called “Arrow Boys.” The moniker references popular local civil defense forces that previously played a pivotal role in containing the Lord’s Resistance Army. At the height of fighting in Zandeland (Yambio, Ibbo, Ezo, Nzara and Tombura counties) in late 2015, the Zande “Arrow Boys” were loosely divided into two large groups, one led by Victor Wanga, the other by Alfred Futiyo.
Wanga’s group, eventually named the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM), was primarily active around Yambio before a January 2016 attack by the SPLA killed Wanga and the group fractured. Thereafter some joined SPLA IO affiliated Arrow Boys around Ezo. Futiyo’s Arrow Boys group is the largest, in both membership and operational areas, with two brigades active throughout the central and western parts of the former Western Equatoria. It joined the SPLM/A IO in December 2015. The exact relationship between many local armed groups and the SPLAM/A IO is shifting and opaque even though formal affiliation has important implications on groups’ eligibility to join the peace agreement’s cantonment process.
Cantonment is the first step in a process of eventual integration into the government’s armed forces or reception of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) package. Opposition groups in the country have a long history of inflating troop numbers, which strains the limited amount of resources available for DDR packages and complicates the integration process. Futiyo’s forces, however, are formal SPLA IO members and anticipate participation in the cantonment and unification process. Many other smaller armed groups throughout the Equatorias remain independent.
Geography & logistics
Andari, Bagidi, Bariguna, Ezo Centre, Naandi, Yandiri
Ezo County borders both CAR and DRC to the southwest. It borders Nzara County to the east, Tambura and Nagero Counties to the west and Lakes State to the north. The River Sue flows north through Ezo County. The River Tonj crosses the northeast portion of the county. A third river flows into the River Sue along the border with Tambura County.
Several roads intersect at Ezo town along the DRC and CAR border. A major road connects Ezo via Naadi to the major road that runs from Wau (Western Bar el Ghazal State) to Yambio and Juba (Central Equatoria State). The logistics cluster issued a consistent warning for the Wau Yambio route (through Ezo County) from May 2015 to February 2016. The route was designated as “passable with difficulties” and “many critical spots” in late 2015. Secondary roads head south from Ezo into DRC and northwest along the county’s border with CAR.
All season fixed-wing airstrips
None. The only fixed wing airstrip is in Western Equatoria is in neighboring Nzara County.
Information last updated: 26/08/16
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