Rumbek Center County, Lakes
2016 population projection: 222,658
Major population centers: Rumbek, the state capital, is fairly populous but by far the greatest number of county residents resides in Matangai Payam (46 percent).
Major ethnic group: Dinka (Dinka Agar clan)
Economy & livelihoods
County residents rely on both farming and livestock herding, for their livelihoods. People herd cattle and goats, in addition to cultivating groundnut, maize, sorghum and vegetables, notably beans and pumpkin. Wild water lily seeds and nuts are also consumed.
Rumbek Town, as the state capital, is the seat for local government, base for humanitarian groups and a center for trade and commerce. County residents reported having good access to markets, however high prices for goods – due to market disruptions related to general insecurity – were a deterrent to securing essential supplies. For example, the price for 3.5kg of sorghum was between 70 80 SSP in March 2016 – 300 percent higher than the pre 2013 price. Most of the cereal sold in town is imported from Uganda. In addition to employment with the government, many residents engage in petty trade. Brewing and selling alcohol was a key source of income for single mothers and widows in the town, and the governor’s decision to ban alcohol consumption in Cueibet County in 2013 negatively impacted their livelihoods.
IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016
Rumbek Centre County is classified as “Stressed” for this time period. According to the Annual Needs and Livelihood Analysis 2014 2015 report**, the county’s food security outlook had improved during the reporting period, though it still had a deficit of 9,366 tons of cereal for 2015.
**A collaborative effort by the Republic of South Sudan, UN agencies and development partners
Dominant Control during conflict: SPLA.
Lakes State has not been a major site of conflict between the SPLA and SPLA IO, and there has been no direct fighting reported in Rumbek County. State officials accused rebels of taking part in a cattle raid on Manteu village, near the border with Unity State where heavy fighting has taken place, in January 2015. However, local residents told media that the incident was part of a cycle of revenge attacks between Rumbek Centre residents and residents of Mayendit County, with no SPLA IO involvement.
The County received a limited number of IDPs following the outbreak of fighting in December 2013 and as of June 2016 was hosting an estimated 5,662 displaced persons, however they appear to be living throughout the region instead of one central location. Rumbek Town, for example, was not reported to be a central site for IDPs. UNMISS reported 11 civilians were seeking protection at their Rumbek base in August 2014 and – after those individuals were re housed – the PoC camp was closed.
Even predating the current conflict, there was a high prevalence of gun ownership among civilians in Lakes State, which has apparently increased since the latest round of fighting broke out. The governor has attempted to launch various disarmament campaigns, which have been resisted by the population, partly due to a lack of trust between the state leader and residents. In June 2015 there were reports that the governor issued an order for security forces to kill any civilians carrying a gun in Rumbek. Government security forces conducted a house to house search for “illegal” weapons in September 2015. It is unclear what impact these initiatives have had on the level of gun ownership in the town.
The central government has noted the alarming rise of intercommunal conflict in Lakes State. In February 2015, President Salva Kiir presided over a high level peace conference attended by representatives from 51 payams in the state, held in Rumbek. The conference was designed to ameliorate inter and intra clan tensions. Participants issued a fourteen point resolution, including for payam leaders to preach peace in their communities and for all traditional leaders to register their firearms within the month. However, the conference appeared to have had limited impact. Around 100 people died and 1,400 cattle were stolen in cattle raids in Rumbek Centre and Rumbek East counties the following month alone, government authorities said. Tensions between the Pakam and Rup sub clans have been noted in Rumbek Centre County in particular.
Broader Trends in Lakes State
The SPLA SPLA IO conflict appears to have exacerbated intercommunal violence nation wide. There have been decades of inter clan and intra clan violence in Lakes State, however there has been an alarming rise in intercommunal violence and cycles of revenge attacks since early 2014. The influx of IDPs and their livestock inevitably strains existing, limited resources, including grazing land, water and salt licks. Migrating herds may destroy crops, leading to conflict between migrating herders and resident farmers. Mingling between local and newly arrived herds has led to the spread of diseases to previously unaffected cattle populations. Concern among locals that new arrivals will stake a claim to the land themselves and refuse to leave later is not uncommon. Ongoing insecurity may also embolden criminal elements to, for example, conduct more cattle raids, under the cover of general chaos. Finally, the proliferation of small arms among Lakes State civilians escalates the level of violence of these clashes and contributes to higher death tolls.
Also notable is that mistrust between the Government and Lakes State residents remain a possible source of conflict. There is significant local opposition to the state’s military caretaker governor, Maj Gen Matur Chut Dhoul, appointed by the president, who has been accused of exacerbating instead of reducing intercommunal violence.
Geography & logistics
Amongpiny, Jiir, Malek, Matangai, Mayom
The County is classified as belonging to the Western Flood Plains livelihood zone. As its name suggests, the region is prone to flooding and turns into swamps during the rainy season. Black clay soils and short vegetation are key characteristics of this region.
A primary road runs north out of Rumbek to Unity State’s Mayendit and Leer towns. Another primary road runs south to Western Equatoria. Aduel town of neighbouring Rumbek East County is connected by a road to the east of Rumbek. A primary road runs past Cueibet County and eventually connects to Tonj Town in neighboring Warrap state. All these roads are open year round and accessible by all vehicles. It takes approximately three days for a cargo truck to reach Juba from Rumbek (passing Terekeka and Yirol).
All season fixed-wing airstrips
Information last updated: 26/08/16
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