Refugees still pouring out of southern Sudan (Sudan)

NAIROBI - Thousands of southern Sudanese are still pouring into refugee camps in Kenya, far outnumbering those who have returned home since a peace deal was signed last year, the United Nations said Tuesday.


More than 10,000 people from southern Sudan have been registered at northern Kenya's Kakuma camp since the country's long-running civil war ended in January 2005, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

The influx has far outpaced the fewer than 600 refugees who have voluntarily returned to their villages in south Sudan to take advantage of what had been hoped to be a peace dividend after 21 years of conflict in the region.

"We have received more than 10,000 refugees, mostly from the Upper Nile region," UNHCR spokesman Emmanuel Nyabera told AFP. "They are fleeing hunger, looking for educational opportunities, and others are fleeing insecurity."

At the same time, only 3,000 refugees have signed up to return home and only 555 of those have actually gone back since the UNHCR's voluntary repatriation program began in December, he said.

Although the peace deal ended fighting between Khartoum and the ex-rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), southern Sudan is still a hotbed of instability, and its infrastructure is shattered.

The Upper Nile region is plagued by militia activity and inter-tribe clashes, while elements of Uganda's notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group have been carrying out raids in the Equatoria region.
The UNHCR has in the past warned that ruined infrastructure, threats posed by lurking landmines as well as persistent insecurity would hamper refugees' return to various parts of oil-rich southern Sudan.

More than four million people were forced from their homes during the 1983 to 2005 conflict that claimed some 1.5 million lives in what was Africa's longest-running civil war when it ended.

Von: 10.5.2006

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