UN calls for ceasefire in Sudan as conflict causes refugee crisis in Horn of Africa region

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Thursday warned of a refugee crisis in the region as the conflict intensifies in Sudan.
Mamadou Dian Balde, UNHCR Director Regional Bureau for East and Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes, during an interview on Thursday, June 20 2024 with The Dawn in Juba.

By Denis Ejulu

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Thursday warned of a refugee crisis in the region as the conflict intensifies in Sudan.

Mamadou Dian Balde, UNHCR Director Regional Bureau for East and Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes, said that the recent intensification of the conflict between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has pushed refugees as far as Kenya and Uganda.

“Most of the refugees were in the neighboring countries as well as returnees, and now you know where else refugees are going, some of them pass through South Sudan and go up to Uganda, and we have started seeing refugees going up to Kenya and we have started seeing the number of refugees increasing reaching Europe,” Balde told The Dawn in an interview in Juba.

He noted that the conflict in Sudan is more protracted now than it had ever been since outbreak of fighting on April 15 2023, adding for the sake of stability in the region the conflict has to end.

The conflict in Sudan has displaced close to 10 million refugees and internally displaced persons,.

In addition, two million are being hosted in neighboring South Sudan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic and Libya as well as Uganda

“In South Sudan we have  700,000 who have come up to here, of these 550,000 are South Sudanese citizens who were living in Sudan and about 150,000 who are Sudanese who have come here, and found a large number of refugees who were here prior to this conflict,” Balde said.

He noted that on his two-day visit to the Renk transit center in Upper Nile State and to Jam Jam refugee camp in South Sudan, he came across newly arriving refugees and South Sudanese who were coming back home.

“What it means is that people who come back home need to be helped, transported and helped to go back to the areas that they choose to return to or to the areas where they come or where the parents come from and that require a lot of support for reintegration,” Balde said.

 Balde disclosed that already over two million South Sudanese are living as refugees mostly in Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, adding that conditions must be created so that these refugees can return home.

“Conditions are first of all protection, so that when people return home they are not having challenges because of either having fled or because of ethnicity, political opinions and others, so when you have  conditions created of peace, no violence, no conflict that is a major contributor  for returnees,” he said

He also added the need to create conditions like access to health, access to education, water and access to services for returnees in South Sudan to engage in productive activities in the agricultural and entrepreneurship sectors.

Balde also noted the challenge of transportation for refugees and returnees at the transit centers in South Sudan to areas of destination, saying that sometimes the returnees and refugees, stay for several weeks in the transit center due to lack of enough resources to help with onward transportation.

“On the other side in Chad, you have even greater needs because refugees are still around border areas, we haven’t had the resources to help establish new settlements because no resources are there available, so financial resources in terms of challenges but also resources to help a lot of the refugees many of them used to live in urban settings to be able to resume normal lives,” he said.

Balde said that if the conflict in Sudan continues for longer periods, there is a risk of more Sudanese children being displaced as refugees in neighboring countries.

In addition, he noted that Sudan which has been prior to the conflict been a host country for some of the South Sudanese refugees in the region will cease being a safe haven for them.

“Remember as we speak now, most of the frontlines are a bit further away from South Sudan but my high commissioner and I went to Kosti which is quite worrying,” Balde disclosed.

He revealed that the incessant calls from the Secretary General and other regional organizations for the warring Sudanese parties to cease hostilities so that the conflict doesn’t drag on longer.

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