[Dehai-WN] MW.nl: East Africa: Threat of War Looms Over the Two Sudans

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2011 21:39:29 +0100

 <http://allafrica.com/eastafrica/> East Africa: Threat of War Looms Over
the Two Sudans

Jared Ferrie

16 December 2011



Yida, South Sudan — The brilliant colours of women's clothing stuck a
vibrant contrast to the dirt airstrip next to the refugee camp. Hundreds of
people were lined up to receive the first shipment of food the camp had
received in a week since fighting began nearby, along the increasingly
volatile border between Sudan and South Sudan.

The camp lies about 12 miles from the border, and about 20 miles from Jaw, a
contested area where troops from both countries have been clashing
sporadically since December 3. Aid agencies evacuated staff the following
day, and food shipments ceased.

Soon, the hum of engines could be heard as the ancient DC-10 approached,
touching down as its prop engines stirred up clouds of dust. A group of men
ambled over to the aircraft and began unloading the last supplies that the
humanitarian group, Samaritan's Purse, had in its warehouse in nearby
Bentiu, the capital of Unity state.

According to Joseph Konda, the camp health coordinator, the shipment came
too late for two people who died of hunger-related causes. He added that
there were 500 malnourished children in the camp.

Sudan bombs refugee camps

Hamuda is one of those babies. His skin hung loosely in folds on his arms
and neck, and he had a feeding tube inserted into one nostril as he sat on
his mother's lap. His mother, Josephina Toona, said she fled along with her
entire village in Sudan's South Kordofan state, where the government is
waging war against an insurgency.

Toona said government aircraft first bombed the village, then the soldiers
arrived. "We just ran because there was heavy fighting and there were
bullets," she said. "We were frightened so we decided to run."

The walk to Yida took four days and they were bombed one more time along the
way before arriving in late October. But even once they had crossed the
border they weren't safe. On November 10 Sudan dropped bombs on the refugee

Safer location needed

Since then, tensions along the border have increased. Both countries filed
complaints with the UN Security Council. On December 8, Hervé Ladsous,
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security
Council that border clashes areas could plunge Sudan and its recently
independent southern neighbour into war.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) wants to move the
population of Yida to a safer location further from the border. "As a
principle, we always try to make sure refugees are a safe distance from
borders, particularly when it's a border that is affected by fighting,
because there's always a risk of cross-border bombing or shelling,
accidental or intentional," said Mireille Girard, UNHCR's representative in
South Sudan.

Well-organized community

Many of the refugees in Yida, however, are reluctant to leave. Hussaine Al
Gumbullah, the camp's chairman, said the main site UNHCR is proposing is in
a swampy area where rebel militia groups are active and landmines are a
risk. The other two sites are no more appealing, he said. He said they
aren't big enough to support even half the camp's population, adding that
they lack basic services or infrastructure.

Yida has grown into a well-organized community, complete with a market
filled with shops made from thick grass and sticks, as well as cement
buildings housing a clinic and warehouses for food sticks. "Now people have
got some local materials for making shelters," said Wedaa Tutu, a refugee.
"How are we going to stay in a place where nothing is there."

Mine surveys and clearance

UNHCR promises to supply services in the new locations, but the agency faces
logistical challenges moving such a large number of people, especially
through areas were rebel groups have laid landmines. "To ensure safe
passage, the UN Mine Action Centre is doing mine surveys and clearance," the
agency said in a December 9 statement. "We hope to relocate a first group of
willing refugees very soon."

The agency said that about 60 to 110 people are arriving every day to Yida,
joining the approximately 50,000 people who have fled to South Sudan from
Sudan's Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. That number is likely to
rise as long as the Khartoum government and insurgents continue to clash in
those two states.

"We expect that arrivals will continue for months and months to come," said


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