Kenya Refugee Camp Fills Again With Sudanese Refugees
May 14, 2012
I am not happy at what happened back home, she says, people were being killed, houses burnt, I had to flee and seek asylum here. If I settle well in the camp and get good care I will be happy.
Kakuma camp was first opened in 1992. It has hosted thousands of refugees who fled the civil war in Sudan, which ended in 2005. In December of that year, UNHCR began voluntary repatriations of thousands of Sudanese from the camp.
Jeff Savage, UNHCR’s senior protection officer in Kakuma, says South Sudanese prefer coming to Kakuma camp than going to other camps in Ethiopia.
“Many of them are coming to Kakuma because either they are used to being refugees here, repatriated or they heard from other relatives,” said Savage. “We are wondering why they are going to Kakuma, which is much further than the camps in Ethiopia for instance.”
The 20-year camp is designed to hold up to 100,000 people. As of this month, there were 94,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from 13 countries living there.
Fri May 18, 2012 11:35am EDT
(Refiles to add TV, pix availability)
* Some 1,200 S.Sudanese refugees arrive each month
* Swampy conditions bad for health, U.N. says
* Refugee matters “not popular” among locals – U.N.
By Katy Migiro
NAIROBI, May 18 (AlertNet) – When Nyajany Kutil left Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp to return home to South Sudan in 2008, she did not imagine that war would force her back across the border again so soon.
But the exodus is repeating itself less than a year after South Sudan celebrated its independence from Sudan, dashing hopes of an end to five decades of war.
About 1,200 South Sudanese refugees are arriving in Kakuma camp each month, fleeing conflict and hunger in the world’s newest nation.
“When I came here in 2005, we had a lot of war,” Kutil, 20, said, seated on a wooden bench with her five-year-old daughter, waiting to register with Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs.
Kutil’s parents were killed in a night-time raid on their village, forcing the teenage girl to seek sanctuary in Kakuma, 120 km (75 miles) south of the border.
In 2008, she and her two young daughters were among the 50,000 South Sudanese refugees repatriated from Kenya, keen to rebuild their lives following a 2005 peace deal which led to a referendum on southern independence last July.
“When I returned to Sudan, I got the same war. So I am here. I don’t have any other place to go,” Kutil said.
Last month, her husband and four-year-old daughter were killed when raiders burned down their village in South Sudan’s troubled Jonglei State.
“I don’t have any hope to return back to South Sudan. I would like to stay in Kenya because I do not see any war here,” she said.
HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF
Many of those who are coming back have been here before, said Guy Avognon, the United Nations (U.N.) refugee agency’s head of office in Kakuma. “It’s history repeating itself.”
Like Kutil, the majority of new arrivals come from Jonglei where 170,000 people have been affected by interethnic conflict since late 2011.
“The journey was very hard. We suffered. There was no food and no water. We were scared so we used to run at night,” said Nyibol Mariar, 40, sitting on a mat in the camp’s reception centre with her eight surviving children.
Her first born son and husband were killed in a night-time raid on their village in Jonglei.
Kakuma receives 100 new arrivals each day. With a population approaching 97,000, the camp is likely to reach its 100,000 capacity in the next few weeks.
“We have never reached that number even at the peak of the Sudan crisis prior to the referendum,” Avognon said.
“The only place to accommodate these new arrivals is swampy,” he added, warning that such unsanitary conditions were likely to make people sick.
Some 60 percent of new arrivals are from South Sudan, 16 percent from Sudan and the remainder from neighbouring states like Somalia and Ethiopia.
Most Sudanese are coming from South Kordofan on the oil-rich, disputed border between the two Sudans. Rebels who fought on the side of South Sudan during the 1983-2005 war are fighting the Khartoum government once again, causing widespread displacement and hunger.
The United Nations and the local community have identified a new site called Kalobeyey with capacity for 80,000 people, 25 km from Kakuma.
But Kenya’s ministry of internal security has yet to authorise the U.N. to start building an access road to the site.
“Refugee matters are not very popular here. People immediately see the security side of it. The government is very cautious,” Avognon said.
The U.N. predicts that Kakuma will receive between 30,000 and 50,000 new arrivals in the next 12 months, largely because of interethnic feuds.
“If Kakuma remains the main destination of new arrivals, I don’t see how we are going to cope in the next dry season,” said Avognon, adding that water shortages could lead to conflict with the host community in Kenya’s arid north-west. (AlertNet is a humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Visit www.trust.org/alertnet) (Editing by James Macharia and Michael Roddy)
“It is not what we would hope for, would have wanted.” said Jumbe. “Of course, basically, the best way was to, still to use the barges back to South Sudan because that is cheaper and it ensures that everybody takes their things with them. And also the other utility for that is that some of these passengers actually do not go all the way to Juba. They want to stop-many, many stops along the White Nile River. So, the barges would have been the best option.”
Clashes along the border between Sudan and South Sudan have raised tensions and brought the countries close to war. Jumbe says the government in Khartoum suspended the use of the river barges because it thought South Sudan might use them for military purposes.
IOM reports it will need to hire some 25 buses and charter up to 100 flights to move the entire Kosti group. It also will have to pay for medical screening and supplies, staff and escorts, food and overnight lodging for the returnees. The entire voluntary repatriation operation is expected to take about one month to complete.
The Geneva-based agency says the two governments are providing travel documents for the returnees and landing clearances for the flights.
The refugees have been living in Sudan for a very long time and have accumulated massive amounts of goods, including, in some cases, farm and domestic animals. The government of South Sudan will transport this excess luggage by truck.
Jumbe says the operation is extremely complex and expensive. He says IOM has $2.5 million to carry out the operation, but urgently needs another $3 million. He warns the consequences will be severe, if donors do not come up with the money .
“The concern is that the whole thing would be disrupted, making people really suffer more than what they have suffered already.” said Jumbe. “And, then there is the danger that even the agreement that we have now in hand with the government may be jeopardized because the government told us we have to move these people as soon as humanly possible.”
Jumbe says IOM will transport people from Juba close to points near their home villages. He says IOM will give the South Sudanese basic non-food items and medical care, the World Food Program will distribute a three-month supply of food, and other agencies will provide additional essential services.
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