[dehai-news] (Middle East Online) South Sudan clashes leave 750 dead

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Wed Mar 25 2009 - 15:14:41 EST

First Published 2009-03-25

*South Sudan clashes leave 750 dead*

Deteriorating security in parts of South Sudan hampers repatriation of
hundreds of refugees.

JUBA, Sudan - Fighting in south Sudan's Jonglei state has left some 750
people dead, with growing insecurity in the wider region hampering aid
efforts, United Nations officials said on Wednesday.

"We have seen reports of up to 750 dead, that seem to have been caused by
cattle rustling," said Geoff Wordley, assistant representative of the UN
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in south Sudan.

"We have seen a number of disturbing and alarming events in terms of
security in recent weeks," Wordley said.

"During the disturbances, at least one World Food Programme convoy carrying
food aid was attacked and looted near Pibor, and therefore the situation of
the delivery of humanitarian aid in that area is also of concern," Wordley

The deteriorating security situation in several parts of south Sudan is
hampering the repatriation of hundreds of Sudanese refugees from Uganda,
Kenya and Ethiopia, a UNHCR report said.

Several towns in Central and Eastern Equatoria states were last week
paralysed by coordinated blockades organized by war veterans from the Sudan
People's Liberation Army (SPLA) who had not been paid their benefits for
five months. The violent protests disrupted life in the towns of Yei, Nimule
and Kapoeta for several days.

These disturbances have affected the movement of returnees and humanitarian
workers, forcing UNHCR to temporarily suspend or halt five repatriation
convoys carrying some 920 returnees from Arua and Adjumani in Uganda to Yei
in Central Equatoria and to Magwi County in Eastern Equatoria.

It also affected convoys from Kakuma in Kenya to Budi, Lopa and Lafon in
Eastern Equatoria, and to Juba in Central Equatoria and to Twic in the
Warrab region.

One route from Adjumani to Nimule was accessible on Monday for the return of
389 refugees.

After meetings last Thursday and Friday with Silva Kiir, president of the
autonomous government of south Sudan, the SPLA veterans lifted their
blockade on Yei.

However, protests are continuing in Kapoeta and the town centre is still
occupied by the war veterans. Though the highway linking the south Sudan
capital, Juba, to Uganda via the border town of Nimule has reopened, the
Kapoeta-Narus road remains closed.

A UNHCR team has been held up at the Narus crossing point on the Kenya-Sudan
border since last Thursday, prevented from leaving by the SPLA, the former
rebel force which signed a comprehensive peace accord with the Sudanese
government in January 2005.

In February, UNHCR suspended the repatriation of southern Sudanese refugees
from Ethiopia following clashes between the SPLA and Sudanese armed forces
in Malakal, which left more than 50 people dead and led to the looting of UN
warehouses, and the subsequent relocation of some UN and humanitarian aid
agency staff.

UNHCR is also deeply concern about the continuing conflict between the Nuer
and Murle ethnic groups in the Jonglei region that has so far claimed the
lives of some 750 people and caused significant displacement.

The fighting, which was sparked by cattle-rustling raids in Pibor County,
has now spread to Akobo and Wanding.

Last week, the governor of the Jonglei region convened an emergency meeting
with UN agencies to coordinate a humanitarian response to the victims of the
Nuer and Murle clashes.

The number of Sudanese refugees who voluntarily repatriated to south Sudan
and Blue Nile state with the help of UNHCR since December 2005 has now
reached 154,070 people.

An additional 156,830 refugees spontaneously returned to south Sudan and
Blue Nile from neighbouring countries since the signature of the peace
agreement in 2005.

Refugees have been returning to south Sudan and Blue Nile from the Central
African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea,
Kenya and Uganda.

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