Note: This is an article that Beny Ngor Chol (of Courageous Journey) posted on his FaceBook page. Beny is from Panrieng, so this is very personal to him.
Over 5,000 Refugees from South Kordofan Arrive in Panrieng, Unity State for Settlement
By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
August 5, 2011 (BENTIU) – Over 5,000 refugees have arrived in South Sudan’s Unity State, according to the UN and other organizations. They were displaced by fighting last month between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the north Sudan state of South Kordofan in June.
The SPLA say the fighting erupted after the SAF attempted to disarm them in the run up to South Sudan’s independence on July 9. During the North-South civil war disenfranchised groups from the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan joined the Southern-based SPLA in the war against Khartoum.
Since South Sudan became independent, Khartoum has demanded that SPLA members from North Sudan move to South Sudan, disarm or integrate into SAF. Khartoum says that the fighting, which began in Kadugali on July 5 was triggered by an SPLA attack on a police station.
Around 70,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the fighting. Most are thought to have moved north but some, like the 5,113 who entered Unity State, moved southward into newly independent South Sudan.
On Thursday Unity State officials witnessed the Situation in Panrieng County where many of the refugees had arrived. A joint committee consisting of international NGOs and the Unity State government has agreed to offer immediate permanent settlement to refugees from South Kordofan in Panrieng County.
The commissioner of Panrieng, Miabek Lang Bilkuei, and the Abdul Elbagi Ali of Elbouram, across the border in South Kordofan, have indicated that Yida would be an appropriate place to resettle refugees coming from South Kordofan.
Bilkuei added that it is the task of state government and his county to allocate a good land for these refugees settling in the state. Hussein Algumballa, a representative of the Nuba refugees, urged international NGOs to provide humanitarian assistance. Algumballa briefed the United Nations agencies and Unity State government officials during their visits to Parieng on the solutions for the refugees, who he said were suffering in Yida.
He said that the situation of refugees in Yida is becoming worse every day since they had travelled for 13 days to escape the violence in South Kordofan. David Mulbah United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) protection officer based in Unity State said that the best allocation of refugees must be a minimum of 50 kilometers away from the border of the two countries. He said that poor roads in the area would be a major issue for settlers in Panrieng County.
The Unity State deputy governor, William Dawut Riak, joined both UN agencies and the state officials in pledging to find a good environment for the settlement of refugees.
Riak said: “The first thing is that we don’t want the refugees to be settled along the border as we already noticed what happened in Jaw and the South Kordofan. We need to put the refugees in good places and also to have good education, health services and other services. We should not to depend on relief alone but get involved in agricultural activities”.
He added that he will forward the case to both the state and national governments to find an amicable solution in order to come up with a policy as soon as possible for the settlement of refugees in Unity State. He added that it would not be up to the international community alone to carry out task. Riak said his government would join hands with development partners to find better solutions.