Yei, South Sudan

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Yei landscape
Yei landscape
Yei is located in South Sudan
Location in South Sudan
Coordinates: 04°06′00″N 30°40′12″E / 4.10000°N 30.67000°E / 4.10000; 30.67000
CountrySouth Sudan
StateYei River
CountyYei River
 (2014 Estimate)
 • Total260,720

Yei is a medium-sized city in South Sudan's southwest. It lies close to the borders of two of the country's trading partners, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a business hub, attracting traders and customers from all three countries. Ivory Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank maintain a branches in the city. Yei is served by Yei Airport.


The city of Yei is located in Yei County, Yei River State[1] in southwestern South Sudan, close to the international borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Uganda. It is approximately 170 kilometres (110 mi), by road, southwest of Juba, the capital and largest city in South Sudan.[2] The geographic coordinates of the city of Yei are: 4° 6' 0.00"N, 30° 40' 12.00"E (Latitude: 4.1000; Longitude: 30.6700).


Before the Second Sudanese Civil War[edit]

The name Yei was given to the location where the current city stands by three traditional chiefs, one each from the Pojulu, Gimunu and Azande ethnic groups. The chiefs also conferred the name to the river that flows through the area and is now called River Yei. The three above ethnic groups had a traditional rivalry with the Kakwa, who also occupy neighbouring parts of Uganda and DRC. The first three ethnicities traditionally were found in what today is called Mukaya Payam, while the Kakwa were found in Marakonye Payam. They lived in co-eexistance with other smaller ethnicities, having rivalries from time to time. In 1951, British missionaries built a small medical clinic on the northern bank of River Yei. That is how the town was born.

Before the onset of the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983 - 2005), Yei was a thriving urban, commercial center. Due to its location, at the borders of Uganda and DRC, the city handled a lot of commerce between the three neighboring countries. At that time, it attracted visitors, from as far away as Juba, about 170 kilometres (110 mi), by road, to the north of Yei. Civil servants and other Juba residents would flock to Yei on weekends to participate in the exchange of goods and services offered in the many bars, shops and hotels. Yei became known as Small London because of its cosmopolitan nature.

Second Sudanese Civil War[edit]

In course of the civil war, the area around Yei became the center of two Ugandan rebel movements that were supported by the Sudanese government, namely the WNBF and UNRF (II). Both waged an insurgency in Uganda, but also fought alongside the Sudanese government against the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels. The SPLA eventually launched a major offensive (codenamed Operation Thunderbolt) against Yei in early 1997, effectively destroying the WNBF and UNRF (II) and capturing Yei itself in March.[3] The town remained under SPLA control until the end of the civil war. Following its capture in 1997, the SPLA fortified and turned Yei into a garrison town.

The presence of large numbers of SPLA in town attracted air raids and shelling from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). The population fled and the SPLA brought in more troops, who started families and started to grow the population of the city again. As the city became safer, later during the civil war, South Sudanese displaced from other parts of the country, particularly from the Bahr el Ghazal Region, began flocking to Yei for safety, and later for humanitarian assistance (food, medicine and housing).

After the Second Sudanese Civil War[edit]

Following the cessation of major hostilities and the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, South Sudanese who had fled to Uganda and DRC began to return, and many chose Yei as their entry point. Due to the relative safety in the city, and the ready availability of International humanitarian aid, many of the returnees from other South Sudanese states chose to stay in Yei, instead of proceeding to their respective states of origin. This has created tension between the returnees who are native to Yei on one hand, and the IDPs who are native to other areas in South Sudan on the other. Local authorities and international aid partners are still grappling with finding acceptable, equitable and permanent solutions to the land claims and counter-claims and the resulting wrangles. And more returnees were coming in 2011.[4]

In 2016, Yei has reportedly been depopulated as a result of conflict during the South Sudanese Civil War.[5]


As of July 2011, the exact population of Yei was not known. Sources have come up with different estimates of the city's population over the past 30 years, including the following:

  • In 1983 the Sudanese census estimated the population of the city at about 23,500[6]
  • In 2006, USAID estimated the population of Yei at about 60,000[7]
  • In 2010, the mid-year population of the city was estimated at 86,000 by extrapolating the census figures.[8]
  • In 2010, a Gfa/Gitec study estimated the population at about 171,400.[9]
  • In 2011, the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) estimated the population of Yei at about 185,000.[10]

The table below summarizes the population estimates, including the sources for each set of figures:

Yei City Population Growth Trends
Year Source/Method Population
1983 Sudanese National Census 23,400
2006 USAID Estimate 60,000
2010 Calculation From Previous Census Data 86,000
2010 Gfa/Gitec Study - Household Survey 171,400
2011 Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) - Estimate 185,000
2014 - Estimate 260,720

Yei County is traditionally inhabited by many ethnicities including the Kakwa, the Bari, the Pojolu, the Baka, the Mundu, and the Avukaya.


The city is home to the Yei Agricultural and Mechanical University, Yei Day Senior Secondary School.

Economic activity[edit]

The area around Yei receives adequate rainfall year-round, which allows for the cultivation of food and cash crops as well as the raising of domestic livestock. Coffee and cassava are some of the crops grown locally. Lush farmlands cover the landscape on the city outskirts. Three commercial banks maintain branches in the city: Equity Bank (South Sudan), Ivory Bank, and Kenya Commercial Bank (South Sudan).

The road network to neighbouring cities and towns is actively undergoing repairs. For example, the road between Yei and Kaya, on the Ugandan border, has been repaired. It was financed by HABITAT and WFP. With the improvements the travel time to Kaya was reduced from five hours to one. Yei is also served by Yei Airport. The civil war decimated the city's infrastructure. However, with the cessation of hostilities in 2005 and the attainment of independence by South Sudan in July 2011, the prospects of Yei recapturing its former days of Small London look good indeed.


  • Leopold, Mark (2001). "'Trying to Hold Things Together?' International NGOs caught up in an Emergency in North-Western Uganda, 1996–97". In Ondine Barrow; Michael Jennings (eds.). The Charitable Impulse: NGOs & Development in East & North-East Africa. Oxford, Bloomfield: James Curry Ltd; Kumarian Press. pp. 94–108.


  1. ^ Yei River State residents fleeing to villages Archived 2016-08-18 at the Wayback Machine Radio Tamazuj
  2. ^ Estimated Road Distance Between Juba And Yei With Map
  3. ^ Leopold (2001), pp. 99–100.
  4. ^ "Challenges of Reintegration of Returnees & IDPs In Yei County, South Sudan" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2011-07-16.
  5. ^ "Genocide or mere atrocity? The chaos in South Sudan keeps getting worse". The Economist. 9 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  6. ^ "Yei's Population Per 1983 Census". Archived from the original on 2012-05-23. Retrieved 2011-07-16.
  7. ^ "USAID Estimated Population of Yei In 2006" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2011-07-16.
  8. ^ "Calculated Population of Yei In 2010". Archived from the original on 2012-05-23. Retrieved 2011-07-16.
  9. ^ Gfa/Gitec:Feasibility Study for the Establishment of Water Supply and Sanitation Services for Yei, May 2010. (1,607 households surveyed).
  10. ^ "Estimated Population of Yei In 2011" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2011-07-16.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 04°06′00″N 30°40′12″E / 4.10000°N 30.67000°E / 4.10000; 30.67000