Tambura County, Western Equatoria

General information

2016 population projection: 69,543

Major population centers: Tambura and South Yubo (or, South Yubu)

Major ethnic group: The two main ethnic groups in Tabura County are the Zande and Belanda Bor.

Displacement risk:

High risk of conflict and food insecurity related displacement.  In December 2015, OCHA reported that Tambura was a displacement “hotspot” with refugees fleeing into neighboring CAR.   In May 2016, UNHCR reported that over 10,000 South Sudanese refugees were in CAR, many of whom are from Ezo and Nzara Counties.  Displacement in Western Equatoria State generally remains high, with more than 93,000 people displaced statewide (OCHA 2016).

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

* about this map

Economy & livelihoods

As a part of the country’s “Green Belt,” 90 percent of households in Tambura County are subsistence farmers.  The main crops grown in Western Equatoria State generally are maize, sorghum, cassava, and groundnuts.  Typical trade patterns see surplus agricultural production travel from Ezo and Yambio to Tambura town, and from Tambura town to Wau.

Under normal conditions, some cattle herders migrate from Western Bahr el Ghazal to Tambura County during the dry season, in search of low grazing grounds near waterways.  The annual movement of South Sudan’s estimated 12 million cattle has always stirred controversy throughout the country.  Migrant pastoralist groups clash with each other and with settled farming communities.  The onset of conflict in 2013 disrupted traditional migratory routes and has caused widespread displacement of pastoralists and their livestock.  Beginning in April 2014, there were reports of early and abnormal livestock migrations into Tambura Country from Western Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap States (WFP 2014; FAO 2014).   The widespread displacement of livestock has seen tribal violence, cattle raids, and disease outbreaks intensify on an unprecedented scale, with the further result of imperiling livelihoods, spurring displacement, and exacerbating local conflict dynamics. 

IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016

The IPC projected “minimal” food insecurity for Tambura Country. The county was projected to be stressed as recently as August to September 2015. Neighboring Nagero County and Western Bahr-el Ghazal are projected to be “stressed,” while the rest of Western Equatoria State is projected to experience “minimal” food insecurity.

Historical context

Dominant Control during conflict:  SPLA/M originally.  Control (and security) deteriorated as local militias and community defense forces challenged SPLA/M, including “Arrow Boys” and the SPLA/M-IO. 

Conflict in Western Equatoria followed a distinct trajectory from that in Juba and the Greater Upper Nile region.  The State did not initially see much violence.  However, local conflicts in eastern counties of the State escalated dramatically in 2015, following unprecedented influxes of heavily armed Dinka pastoralists and their cattle.  The conflict spurred (re)mobilization of community defense forces, known as “Arrow Boys,” throughout the State.  Meanwhile perceptions that the SPLA favored the Dinka cattle herders and aggressive government responses exacerbated the violence. 

By December, fighting had spread to western counties in Western Equatoria State.  Among the convoluted mix of violent actors, “Arrow Boys” are loosely coordinated local armed groups.  They previously played a pivotal role in countering Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) violence in the area in the late 2000s.  In late 2015, some Arrow Boy groups began to align with the SPLA-IO against the government.  A December 2015 SPLA-IO statement warned the government against provoking further clashes in locations occupied by Arrow Boys, including Tambura County. As fighting among the armed actors escalated, the UN estimated that 15,000 people were displaced in Tambura and Yambio counties in December 2015.  In early January, the government began a military operation called “Opening the Road,” targeting armed groups in the western part of the region.  The SPLA attacked locations near Yambio, Saura, Li Rangu, Ezo, Tambura town, and Source Yubu.

At least eight people were reported killed in Yubu during the violence in 2015 and shops and houses looted, burnt and destroyed.  In April 2016, UNHCR reported that the Tambura County authorities had restricted UNMISS from accessing the area and that the community of Source Yubu had not received any humanitarian assistance due to the recent insecurity and bad roads.  UNMISS had been able to access other parts of Tambura County without restriction.

In separate conflict dynamics, Tambura and Nagero Counties have engaged in a long dispute over the border demarcation.  Nagero was previously a payam of Tambura County and no clear border was demarcated when Nagero became its own county in 2004.  Longstanding tensions also exist between the local, mainly Zande, farmers and the Mbororo cattle herders who travel through the area.

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


Mupoi, Namatina, Source Yubu, Tambura

Geographical features

Tambura County borders the Central African Republic (CAR) to the west, Nagero and Ezo Counties to the east and south, and Wau County in Western Bahr el Ghazal to the north.  Several rivers flow across the county, including the River Pongo in the north and the River Sue in the east.

Main roads

A main road connects Tambura town to Wau in the north and to Yambio in the east.  The logistics cluster issued a consistent warning for the Wau-Yambio route (through Tambura) from May 2015 to February 2016.  The route was designated as “passable with difficulties” and “many critical spots.”  A secondary road connects Tambura to South Yubo before continuing into CAR.  Another secondary road runs parallel to the international boarder with CAR into Western Bahr el Ghazal.

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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