Panafrican News Agency

Intercommunal fight re-displaces thousands of South Sudanese refugees

Khartoum, Sudan (PANA) – The UN refugees agency has issued a statement, condemning what it termed the “senseless” attack on South Sudanese refugees in West Kordufan state, 750 km west of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, leading to new displacement.

The UNHCR Sudan office said in the release, received on Monday, that it was “shocked over the senseless and violent assaults” on a refugee settlement in Al Meiram, West Kordufan, earlier this month, causing some 400 South Sudanese refugees to flee north until Sunday (17 May).

The release said the assaults started on May 5, when the settlement was raided by tribesmen on horsebacks causing panic and destruction. Over 200 of the nearly 280 houses in the settlement were burned to the ground; all their belongings destroyed or robbed, including important identity documents when the tribesmen injured 18 refugees.

The attackers, the release stressed, claim the assaults were intended as a revenge linked to intercommunal clashes in the Abiye region where armed attacks flared between different communities in recent weeks.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this brutal attack on innocent men, women and children,” UNHCR’s Representative, Elizabeth Tan, said in the statement.

According to the UNHCR, the refugees fled to a military compound where they received protection, food and water. After two days, some returned to the remains of the settlement wary about any new violence.

It further added that until Sunday 17 May, over 80 families, around 400 individuals, decided to leave the area and travelled north to parts of West Kordufan where some of them used to work in the harvest season: El Tboun, Ghubaish, Adella and El Majrur.

Initial reports indicate that they do not intend to return to Al Meiram after the harvest because of the threats and violence.

Immediately after the assaults, UNHCR supported the families in the damaged settlement with plastic sheeting, kitchen sets and blankets.

The Agency is now monitoring the situation and the movements.

“It will be vital to restore safety and security quickly and to bring perpetrators to justice”, said Tan.

“UNHCR stands ready to work with the government and the humanitarian community to address the urgent needs of these people who felt compelled to move on.”

Authorities proposed a plot of land where an alternative settlement could be established.

The UNHCR Representative also praised the solidarity of the Sudanese neighbours in Al Meiram: “They rejected violence, protected the refugee community and prevented attacks where they could, and opened their homes to those who had lost everything”.

The host community offered 100,000 Sudanese Pound (some US$ 1,800) in an act of solidarity with the refugees to help rebuild their houses.

Sudan hosts some 821,000 South Sudanese refugees, including about 61,000 in West Kordufan.

UNHCR’s work in West Kordufan focuses on protection and supports both refugees and their host communities in places like Al Meiram where the Agency distributed mosquito nets to both groups recently.

-0- PANA MO/VAO 18May2020