Mundri West County, Western Equatoria
2016 population projection: 42,976
Major population centers: The largest town in Mundri West is Mundri. Significant fighting in the town since May 2015 has seen Mundri periodically deserted as civilian populations flee. The town is connected by main roads to Yambio, Rumbek and Juba.
Major ethnic group: The main tribes in Mundri West are the Moro, Jur Beli and Mundu. The main languages are Moro and Moro Kodo, with some Moro Andri, Moro Wira, Jur Beli Avukaya, Arabic, Baka, and Mundu spoken.
High risk of conflict related displacement. West Equatoria State saw comparatively little displacement initially after civil war began in Juba in December 2013. IOM reported 4,700 persons were displaced in all of Western Equatoria State in early May 2015. By August 2015, however, that number had dramatically increased to 93,280 displaced throughout the state. Among them, an estimated 30,000 individuals were displaced (many multiple times) in Mundri West County from fighting between the SPLA, local defense groups, Dinka pastoralists, and criminal or other armed groups. IOM and OCHA both designated Mundri West County specifically as a displacement “hotspot” from October through December 2015 and again in February 2016. As of May 2016, 315 citizens shelter in the UN’s temporary operating base in Mundi town, with another 2,000 civilians camped just outside of the base for protection. While overall conflict in Western Equatoria State appears to be declining, displacement remains high with more than 93,000 IDPs statewide.
Economy & livelihoods
The main livelihood activities in Mundri West are farming (32 percent), cattle herding (32 percent), fishing (20 percent) and “other” (17 percent) (IOM 2013). Known as the “Green Belt,” the Equatorias include some of the most fertile land in the country and farmers in the area can reap two or three harvests per annum from the same plots. The main crops grown in Mundri West are sorghum, sesame, cassava, groundnuts, vegetables, maize, millet and rice. During the dry season, the county sees seasonal migrations of cattle herders coming from the northwest. Major roads connect Mundri town to Yambio (State capital) in the west, Juba in the east, and Rumbek (Lake State) to the north. Generally high agricultural production and trade routes to neighboring Uganda meant that Western Equatoria State benefitted historically from some of the lowest food commodity prices in the country.
Dramatically decreasing security across the State – especially since May 2015 – has reduced crop production, disrupted markets, displaced populations, sharply increased marked prices, and generally imperiled local livelihoods. Warnings were issued for traveling on the Mundri Rumbek road from June 2015 through January 2016; on the Mundri Yambio road from November 2015 through February 2016; and, on the Mundri Juba road from November 2015 through January 2016.
IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016
IPC projections expect Mundri West to experience “minimal” food insecurity, though neighboring Mvolo and Mundri East are expected to be “stressed.” The only period during which IPC’s designation of food insecurity for Mundri West County increased to “stressed” was from August to September 2015.
Dominant Control during conflict: SPLA/M originally. Control (and security) deteriorated throughout 2015, as local militias and community defense forces challenged SPLA/M, including “Arrow Boys,” Wesley Welebi’s “Western Equatorian Group.” Some of these armed actors have subsequently aligned with SPLA IO while others remained independent.
Conflict in the Equatorias has followed a trajectory distinct from that in the Greater Upper Nile region. The Equatorian States saw comparatively little fighting initially after civil war broke out in 2013 and only limited displacement from other conflict ridden states. By early 2015, however, an unusually large influx of (heavily armed) Dinka cattle herders from conflict ridden states exacerbated long standing tensions between local farmers and migrating pastoralists in Mundri West, Mundri East and Maridi Counties. As inter communal fighting escalated, perceptions that the SPLA favored the Dinka cattle herders only increased the conflict. SPLM/A IO incitement and military support began to turn largely local uprisings into full scale rebellions throughout the State. The August 2015 peace deal did little to address the specific conflict dynamics in Western Equatoria State and the detention of several leaders, including the popular Governor Bakosoro, only further alienated many Equatorians from the central government. Aggressive responses by the SPLA displaced thousands and exacerbated the violence.
In Mundri West County specifically, the situation deteriorated significantly beginning in May 2015, when separate attacks by unknown armed men on cattle keepers and Dinka SPLA killed several people. By the end of that month, violence between SPLA soldiers and the local community had escalated such that up to 130 civilians had been killed and about 30,000 people were displaced into surrounding areas. In general, rebel operations have drawn heavy handed government responses, including helicopter gunship attacks, extrajudicial killings, burning of homes, and looting. Clashes continued through 2015 – including a three day October attack by an unknown armed group on SPLA barracks in Mundri town – have left urban areas in Mundri West largely deserted and most of the civilian population repeatedly displaced.
Armed actors in the area are a convoluted mix of local defense groups, criminal actors, SPLA IO affiliated groups, and the SPLA. The strongest SPLA IO affiliated groups are located around Mundri town, where Wesley Welebi’s “Western Equatorian Group” works closely (if mainly tactically) with local Moro defense groups, or “Arrow Boys.” The groups primarily conduct hit and run attacks on government outposts, though they have periodically maintained some control over the Mundri Gariya road and held part of Mundri town in October 2015. The exact relationship between local armed groups and the SPLA IO is shifting and opaque. The SPLA IO has claimed that Equatorian groups and operations are part of their own. The national government, in contrast, denies that SPLA IO is active in the region. Mutual obfuscation is compounded by delayed investigation, but has important implications on the many groups’ eligibility to join the cantonment process under the national Peace Agreement. 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. In 2016, some groups began to sign individual peace deals with SPLA and the violence in the Equatorias generally appears to be declining. Displacement in the county, however, remains high.
Geography & logistics
Mundri, Amadi, Bangolo, Kotobui
Two rivers, River Meri and River Yei (Rodi) flow north through Mundri West County, joining at Mundri town and continuing north into Mvolo. River Rohl flows along the (northern portion of the) county’s western border with Maridi County.
Main roads connect Mundri town to Yambio in the west, Rumbek to the north, and Juba to the east. Warnings were issued for traveling on the Mundri Rumbek road from Jun 2015 through January 2016; on the Mundri Yambio road from November 2015 through February 2016; and on the Mundri Juba road from November 2015 through January 2016.
All season fixed-wing airstrips
None. The only fixed wing airstrip is in Western Equatoria is in Nzara.
Information last updated: 26/08/16
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