Rumbek East County, Lakes
2016 population projection: 178,328
Major population centers: Aduel town, Akot town
Major ethnic group: Dinka (Dinka Agar and Dinka Gok clans), with a minority of Jur Bel
There is a low risk of displacement due to the national conflict; however frequent intercommunal violence is continuously displacing people on a limited scale. As of mid 2015, there were roughly 4,000 IDPs in the county.
Economy & livelihoods
According to a 2013 IOM Village Assessment, the major livelihood activities reported by residents were farming (35 percent), livestock rearing (33 percent) and fishing (25 percent). Main crops cultivated in this region are sesame, groundnut, millet, sorghum and vegetables. A minority of households also grow cassava and maize. Cattle herding is also a common livelihood activity and herds are grazed both within the county as well as neighboring counties, particularly Mvolo in Western Equatoria (often leading to tensions related to cattle raids or destruction of crops by livestock). Fishing and farming takes place mainly at subsistence levels. Some residents also undertake small scale trading of essential goods. The county belongs to the Western Flood Plains livelihood zone and, as such, has many lakes and rivers, with black clay soils. The majority of the population lives in the southwestern region of the county, where access to water via rivers, streams and springs was graded as “easy”. However, Rumbek East experiences annual flooding in the rainy season which makes agriculture difficult and reduces access to markets. General lack of physical infrastructure was assessed to be a significant challenge to resident’s livelihoods in a 2012 survey by the UNDP.
IPC projection for Jan-Mar 2016
The 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 deteriorated in the reporting period, with a deficit of 4,979 tons of cereal for 2015.
**A collaborative effort by the Republic of South Sudan, UN agencies and development partners
Dominant Control during conflict: SPLA.
The county has not witnessed major fighting between Government and Opposition forces. However, in spring 2014 residents near Lake Nyibor, located by county’s border with conflict affected Unity State, reported that SPLA IO members had conducted two raids in the area and stolen cattle. It is unknown what the motive for the attacks was, and they have not been confirmed. According to the Needs and Livelihoods Analysis, there were 3,945 IDPs in Rumbek East County as of mid 2015. It is unclear where the IDPs are based, as there appears to be no central camp.
The primary source of insecurity in Rumbek East has been continuous intercommunal violence. The county has been one of the hardest hit in Lakes State in terms of inter and intra clan clashes. Sub clans of Dinka Agar and Dinka Gok clans have been involved in ongoing cycles of revenge attacks and cattle raids over the years, but this has appeared to worsen since the outbreak of the national conflict. Some of the violence is tied to competition over resources, or relates to intra clan disputes going back decades. However, political motivations have also emerged as an additional complication to these disputes. For example, the killing of the Paramount Chief Aparer Chut Dhuol, brother of the state governor, by an unknown gunman in August 2014 sparked a devastating cycle of violence in Rumbek East. The brothers belonged to the Gony section and their supporters launched revenge attacks against the rival Thuyic section from which the assailant was suspected to have been from. The attackers reportedly targeted women and children, ransacked schools, looted homes and killed at least two Thuyic individuals. Media reported roughly 3,000 students fled to Rumbek town for safety.
Intercommunal violence is fuelling continuous displacement where attacks occur and seriously disrupting livelihood activities in the county by, for example, interrupting the planting season or reducing market access via roads. There were also unconfirmed reports of displacement to other counties as a result of the violence, for example of Dinka Agar returning to Rumbek Centre.
The border with Unity State could become a flashpoint. Some county residents reportedly believe that Nuer from neighboring Unity State want to claim the cattle grazing area around Paloch payam for themselves. However, as of late 2014 Nuer from Unity State were able to move freely into Lakes State to access markets so it is presumed any tensions are contained at this point. Near the southern border with Wulu County, Rumbek East residents are often accused of contaminating the local river and destroying wild animal traps set by Wulu residents. But no major conflicts have been reported.
There have been various attempts by government officials, community leaders and youth to reduce the violence in the county via peace conferences; however progress has been halting at best. In December 2015, the Ruop, Kuei and Pakam Dinka Agar sub clans signed a peace agreement but unfortunately the brief calm was broken by a new wave of clashes in April 2016 near the Rumbek Centre Rumbek East border. In early 2016 the Gony and Thuyic sections began engaging in a reconciliation process which is ongoing as of the time of writing.
These security issues are compounded by the lack of law enforcement presence throughout the county and deep underlying mistrust between state authorities and local residents. The county commissioner stated in 2012 that lack of manpower led to inadequate deployment of police forces. Many residents across Lakes State, including traditional leaders in Rumbek East, have reportedly called for the removal of the state governor appointed in 2013 due to his inability to reduce intercommunal violence. Tensions between cattle camp youth and government security officials reportedly heighted in 2014, sometimes escalating into violence. Media reported that most police officers in Pacong and Malek agok payams, and Panawac village, had begun deserting their posts by December 2014 due to fear of attacks by armed youth. For example, earlier that month armed youth killed five SPLA soldiers in Panawac village when the soldiers tried to intervene in an intra clan conflict.
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 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
Aduel, Akot, Atiaba, Cueicok, Maleng agok, Pacong, Paloch
The County lies within the Western Flood Plains livelihood zone, with black clay soils, short vegetation and networks of streams and rivers, which tend to flood in the rainy season. Much of Rumbek East turns into swamps as a result. The River Naam flows roughly down the County’s north south axis. Lake Nubor is located near the county’s northeastern border with Yirol East County, next to the River Lau.
The County’s main transportation link is a primary road running roughly along its east west axis, connecting its primary towns with Rumbek Centre County (and state capital Rumbek) to the west and Yirol East County to the east. Though it is severely damaged, with many potholes, it was still deemed passable for all vehicles in all seasons as of a 2013 Logistics Cluster team assessment. The report found the average speed for 4x4 vehicles on this road was 30km/hour and 20 km/hour for light vehicles. Movement on this road is sometimes restricted due to security concerns related to local intercommunal fighting. A secondary road also runs north to Unity’s State’s Panyijar County. The road is accessible to trucks (<20 metric tons) in all seasons until it approaches Unity State, where it becomes passable only in the dry season.
All season fixed-wing airstrips
Akot and Billing.
Information last updated: 26/08/16
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