By Deng Machol
Juba, South Sudan – South Sudan President Salva Kiir has placed Jonglei State and the Pibor Administrative Area under a state of emergency due to persist floods and intercommunal violence.
The two areas were blighted by the unending circle of violence and the unfolding humanitarian situation.
A state of emergency is a situation of national danger or disaster in which a government suspends normal constitutional procedures in order to regain control.
Armed youth from Jonglei and Pibor Administrative Area have engaged in attacks and counter-attacks since the beginning of 2020.
The inter-communal clashes that have raged for months over cattle, child abduction and revenge killings, has resulted to deaths and uprooted thousands of locals from their villages.
In a decree read out on the state television SSBC on Wednesday, President Kiir stated that the decree shall last for three months due to the ongoing conflict in Jonglei State and Pibor administrative area and the dire humanitarian situation there.
The spikes of violence in greater Jonglei prompted President Kiir in June to form an investigation committee led by Vice President Dr. James Wani Igga to address the root causes of the problems, to bring about a lasting peace and stability in the two areas.
Dr. Wani Igga’s 13-member high-level committee is to conduct meetings with elders from Jonglei and Pibor Administrative Area to contain the security situation there.
The committee is expected to also identify the root causes of inter-communal violence and organize a peace conference between communities in the areas affected.
However, it is not clear why the president declared the state of emergency before the Igga committee submitted its findings.
In 2017, President Kiir also declared a three-month state of emergency in Gok, Eastern Lakes and Western lakes states of Bahr el Ghazel region, where inter-communal clashes was intensifying. But there had been continued inter-communal clashes, cattle raiding, child abduction and revenge killings in those areas.
Most of northern parts of South Sudan were reportedly covered by the floods, which destroyed properties and businesses, caused massive displacement, something locals attributed to the construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River.
However, in restive Jonglei and Pibor Administrative Area, the flood has significant reported damage to livelihood assets, food crops and livestock has diminished the communities’ ability to effectively start to recover.
The water level in flood-hit areas has risen 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). Aid agencies fear the floods will aggravate the prevailing food crisis in the region. Many health facilities and nutrition centers used to shelter people are currently under water.
Bor town, capital of Jonglei State of over 200,000 people, include it outskirts, has been severely hit by heavy rains and floods over the past weeks with uncounted houses destroyed. The floods have also hit Twic East and Duk, among others in Jonglei State.
The flood has also destroyed housing and roads, include all the man – made dykes and have left many people in search of dry group.
Mabior Atem, Secretary General for Jonglei State, said the overflows of Lake Victory and River Nile have resulted to severely crisis as hundreds thousands of families were left sleeping in the open areas.
“It is really crisis – it is really catastrophe that we really need the South Sudanese over the world to pay attention. Now the people who are displaced, are now in schools and churches and those places are not enough to accommodate 150,000 populations of Bor town – that is gonna be enough but this only temporally solution we are putting in – now there is overcrowding in the schools and churches, which in sense will allow a lot of sickness,” Mabior told Pan African Visions.
“Situation is worsen as per now only God can help us here, we are on water,” said Deng Garang, with irritated tone while struggling to relocate his family as his houses were emerged by water, resident of Bor town; adding that this situation is also blighted with current conflict, hunger and covid 19 pandemic.”
Footage circulated online (social media) showed floodwaters cutting off roads and sweeping away houses and people’s belongings. Swaths of agricultural land in the areas were also flooded.
“In South Sudan, water is normally associated with life but now, water it is putting lives at risk,” said Jacob Magai, activist.
Are Floods Linked To Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
However, both experts and government says South Sudan’s flooding has nothing to do with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, attributed it to the ongoing torrential rains in Victoria Lake region, which coincide with local rainfalls creating devastating impacts. And Ugandan authorities are releasing more water than usual through the Owen Falls Dam on the White Nile.
South Sudan’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation had said that torrential rains and the ongoing floods in Victoria Lake Basin shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, are causing water levels in the lakes to rise to abnormal conditions, which resulted to the heavy flood in the country.
Nhial Tiitmamer, Researcher and Director of Environmental and Natural Resources Program at the Sudd Institute, said the 2019 – 2020 heavy floods in South Sudan have been caused by Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD).
However, the IOD is a fluctuation of Indian Ocean sea surface temperature (SST) from cold (negative) to warm (positive) and vice versa.
He explained that the Positive IOD in Western Indian Ocean leads to heavy rainfalls and floods in Eastern Africa. The IOD has been exacerbated by global warming since the 1960s.
According to the country’s environmental expert, last year, the SST of the Western Indian Ocean rose by 2 degree Celsius, an unprecedented temperature rise made worst by global warming, which led to extensive rise of moisture from the sea surface that has been deposited in the Eastern African inland countries as torrential rains, leading to floods last year and this year.
“This has led to rise in the water level of Lake Victoria. In May this year, Lake Victoria witnessed the highest water level in history due to heavy torrential rainfalls. This is what is causing flood here in South Sudan. So this year flooding has nothing to do with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam,” said Tiitmamer.
According to the expert, the Ethiopian Dam would be asset to the fragile state as it would get a cheap hydroelectric power, among others.
“There are no negative impacts in South Sudan because the Dam is on the Blue Nile River, which does not pass through South Sudan,” said Tiitmamer. However, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt will negatively be affected in some ways. South Sudan can benefit from importing electricity generated by the dam,” said Tiitmamer.
More so, the office of the president said the reason for the state of emergency is to help people, not to detain them in floods hit areas.
The presidential order also stated that the Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Ministry will seek international support for the flood victims.
This is a most devastating flooding experience in over four decades in the country, something that the affected locals say “the suffering here cannot go unnoticed and requires an immediately compassionate response” from both the government and humanitarian agencies.
Analyst say the overflows of River Nile and the Sudd wetland to the nearby communities and towns/villages will have much considerable negative effect to livelihoods, calling on the government to support relocation of affected communities.
Last year, since July, the floods have affected an estimated 908,000 people, 620,000 of whom require immediate humanitarian assistance in eight states of the Eastern Africa’s youngest nation.