Rumbek North County, Lakes
2016 population projection: 62,465
Major population centers: Maper and Wurieng towns
Major ethnic group: Dinka (Dinka Agar clan)
There is a medium level of internal displacement due to the national conflict. As of mid 2015, the county is also hosting roughly 4,300 IDPs, including from neighboring Unity State where significant fighting has occurred.
Economy & livelihoods
Livelihood activities in this county include fishing, farming, livestock rearing and gathering of wild plants. As Rumbek North is part of the Western Flood Plains livelihood zone, common crops include groundnut, sesame, millet and maize. Okra, beans and cassava are also cultivated. The soil is fertile; however annual flooding makes agriculture difficult. The rivers provide fishing opportunities and many households also raise livestock such as cattle, goats and chickens. Farming and fishing takes place at subsistence levels and households often rely on markets or wild produce to survive. Commodities are distributed to Rumbek North via the main market at Rumbek town, the state capital. As of 2015, the food security situation had reportedly severely deteriorated due to conflict as well as flooding. Both IDPs and host communities were reportedly foraging for wild fruits and leaves, supplemented by fish, to survive. Flooding and conflict related insecurity on the main road link to Rumbek Town disrupted trade.
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 food security situation in Rumbek North severely deteriorated during the reporting period. The county had a deficit of 1,038 tons of cereal in 2015. The deterioration was mainly due to the early onset, and unusually severe degree, of flooding in August 2014 which prevented harvesting, destroyed homes and contributed to further breakdown of road networks, including to the major market center at Rumbek Town. A November 2014 IRNA report found that 75 percent of the county was sitting in flood waters.
**A collaborative effort by the Republic of South Sudan, UN agencies and development partners
Dominant Control during conflict: SPLA
Rumbek North has remained under the overall control of the SPLA but fighting took place in the county’s north in 2015. In January, the county commissioner reported Opposition elements attacked an SPLA barracks near Maper town, killing one soldier and 11 civilians. The attackers reportedly burned down over 150 houses and approximately 2,172 individuals were displaced to Maper as a result. In May, Government and Opposition forces clashed in the area around Madol payam, resulting in civilian deaths including women and children. The county commissioner was also killed. Media reported that around 3,700 residents were displaced as a result, though it is unclear to where. Also in May, government forces used Maper town as a base from which it launched attacks against SPLA IO forces in Mayendit and Panyijar Counties in Unity State. The Government also accused Opposition forces of launching attacks against civilians, including cattle raids, into Lakes State, throughout 2015. However the Opposition denied the accusations.
By July 2014, approximately 305 Nuer from neighboring Mayendit County (Unity State) had fled into Maper town to escape both violence and hunger. They have since reportedly lived in peace with local Dinka host communities, and the primary challenge has been continued food insecurity.
There has also been significant displacement within the county due threats other than the SPLA SPLA IO conflict. By the end of 2014, local authorities reported that 20,268 (or roughly 30 percent) of the population had been displaced within the county due to intercommunal conflict or flooding. Of this total, 11,291 individuals had been displaced due to unusually heavy floods and 8,910 individuals had been displaced from Rumbek Centre to Rumbek North following insecurity in the former. In summer 2014, government security forces clashed with the Pakam community in Rumbek Centre in an effort to push the community back into the traditional homes they left two decades ago, in Rumbek North. The fighting left at least 20 SPLA soldiers dead; unverified numbers of women, children and elderly fled to Rumbek North. The SPLA has also been involved in clashes with armed youth at cattle camps in Rumbek North, though motives and details have been difficult to verify.
Persistent Intercommunal tensions and clashes within Rumbek North are also contributing to insecurity. There have been longstanding tensions and cycles of cattle raids between the Dinka Agar clan of Rumbek North and Dinka Gok of neighbouring Cueibet County. Residents of Rumbek North also often engage in cattle raids/revenge attacks with neighboring Tonj North County. Within the county, the Keer and Awac sub clans of the Dinka Gok often conduct cattle raids and attacks against each other. In March 2014, the Gaak and Manuer sub clans turned on each other for the first time, in a worrying sign of possible escalation of violence in the county. Details of incidents are often difficult to ascertain as officials claim local residents refuse to share information with police, owing to deep mistrust between residents and state officials.
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. Intermingling between local and newly arrived herds led to the spread of diseases to previously unaffected cattle populations. Locals sometimes raise concerns that new arrivals will claim land for themselves and eventually refuse to leave. Ongoing insecurity may also embolden criminal elements, who may use the environment of impunity to conduct more cattle raids, looting, and other criminal activities. Finally, the proliferation of small arms among Lakes State civilians appears to have increased the level of violence of these clashes and led 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
Aloor, Madol, Malueeth, Maper, Mayen, Wun rieng
Two main rivers, River Gel and River Gulnam, run across the vertical axis of the County, on either side of the main trunk road. Rumbek North is flat, with short vegetation and black clay soils as typical of the Western Flood Plains livelihood zone. The County is prone to annual flooding, with the northern areas reportedly being particularly hard hit.
A primary road runs along the vertical axis of the County, connecting Maper town to Rumbek at its south and Mayendit County (Unity State) to its north. The road, part of the Rumbek Maper Mayendit Bentiu Road Corridor, was deemed accessible year round to all vehicles per a May 2013 Logistics Cluster map. However a July survey found that, while the first 30km of the road out of Rumbek was gravel and smooth, the road deteriorated for the remaining 70km to Maper. It was deemed to be passable only for vehicles weighing less than 20 metric tons, and, in the rainy season, only after two dry days. A July 2014 IRNA report said that landmines and UXOs were not a threat to humanitarian response in Rumbek North.
All season fixed-wing airstrips
No current airfields, as of a May 2013 Logistics Cluster update. There is an old airfield at Palal, next to the border with Unity State’s Panyijar County. There is an UNMISS built helipad near the County Commissioner’s office.
Information last updated: 26/08/16
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