The general security situation in South Sudan is relatively stable although sporadic security incidents have recently become more frequent. On 28 August, a group of students in Juba stormed the Headquarters of the Central Equatoria State's Ministry of Education, smashing office equipment and private and government vehicles. Some officials of the Ministry sustained heavy beating and injuries. The students went on a rampage following a one week sit-in strike by the members of the teaching staff who were protesting nonpayment of their salary arrears by the Ministry. The Government of South Sudan had earlier issued a circular stipulating back-pay to all employees in South Sudan States effective June 2006. The Ministry paid salaries to teachers but not the arrears. This triggered the sit-in strike on the part of the teachers, followed by the angry reaction of the students against the Ministry.
On 31 August, fighting broke out between the SPLA and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF)/South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) in Phom El Zeraf (New Fangak), 50 kilometres south-west of Malakal, resulting in the displacement of about 800 families to Tonga. The security level in Malakal has been reviewed and raised to security level 3 as a precautionary measure.
Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels are moving from their bases in northern Uganda in compliance with a truce that took effect on 29 August. Under the terms of the truce, the LRA and the Government of Uganda agreed to a cessation of hostilities as negotiations continue on a full-fledged ceasefire that will include demobilization, disarmament and the reintegration of troops. LRA rebels have three weeks to gather at two assembly points in South Sudan. They have been guaranteed safe passage.
Visit of UNHCR's Director of the Africa Bureau
UNHCR's Director of the Africa Bureau, Marjon Kamara, is on a 12-day mission to Sudan, Kenya and Somalia from 9 to 21 September. She is accompanied by the Head of Desk for East and South Sudan at Headquarters, Arun Sala-Ngarm. Starting the mission in Khartoum, Ms. Kamara held meetings with government officials, the UN Deputy Representative of the Secretary-General, the diplomatic community and UNHCR staff on 10 and 11 September. She also visited Soba IDP camp where she spoke with IDP representatives who shared their concerns regarding living conditions in the camp and their desire to return to South Sudan. Ms. Kamara will depart to Juba on 12 September where she will meet with the authorities, the UN Country Team, donors, returnees and UNHCR staff. She is also scheduled to visit Yei, Kajo Keji, Yambio and Tambura to see project sites and way stations before travelling to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya on 14 September. For the Sudan leg of the trip, Ms. Kamara is accompanied by UNHCR's new Representative for Sudan, Chrysantus Ache.
Repatriation from the Democratic Republic of Congo
On 22 August, 383 refugees (127 families) repatriated from Ingobokolo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to Yei. At the border to witness the voluntary repatriation were Mr. Michael Honigstein, Acting Consul-General of the US Consulate in Juba; Mr. Kent Healy, Regional Refugee Coordinator for the Horn of Africa, US Embassy, Addis Ababa; Mr. David Gressly, UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan; and Mr. Bruce McKerrow, Head of UNOPS, Juba. Dispersal of the returnees to Yei, Morobo and Lujulo was conducted on 23 and 24 August by GTZ and UNHCR.
On 25 August, another 152 refugees (61 families) returned home from Ingobokolo to Yei. Their dispersal from Alero way station in Yei to Morobo, Lujulo, Lasu, Juba and Yambio took place during the following three days. This convoy movement marked the closure of the repatriation operation from the DRC on the Ingobokolo-Yei corridor. To date, a total of 1,798 refugees have been repatriated from the DRC. The next repatriation movement from the DRC is scheduled for 13 September, using a new corridor on the Aba-Lasu-Yei route.
"Go and see visit" from Aba (DRC)
As part of the preparatory process for commencement of the repatriation operation from Aba, DRC, a "go and see" visit to Yei was organised for refugee representatives from Aba from 4 to 7 September. The visit was intended to give the refugee representatives an opportunity to assess the current situation in the country of origin and share their findings with the refugees in Aba. The refugee representatives were received at the Lasu border by the Payam Administrator of Lasu and staff from UNHCR Yei. When they arrived in central Lasu, they were officially welcomed by, inter alia, the Payam Administrator, Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SRRC) representatives, local council members, education authorities, local community leaders and some members of Lasu Payam. While addressing the refugee leaders, the Payam Administrator expressed appreciation to UNHCR for taking the initiative of organising the visit and playing a vital role in bringing home Sudanese in exile. He reminded the refugees that following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) it is the responsibility of each and every Sudanese to contribute to consolidating peace and fostering development. In this context, he emphasized the urgent need for Sudanese to return home. He also called on UNHCR to continue facilitating the reintegration of the returnees.
Congolese refugees in Lasu
On 31 August, UNHCR undertook a mission to Lasu to assess the conditions of the prima facie Congolese refugees and gather information to address protection concerns. During the mission, a meeting was held with the Payam Administrator of Lasu. He expressed appreciation to UNHCR for the assistance accorded to the Congolese and reiterated the need to continue to monitor and assess their conditions. For their part, the Congolese, with assistance from the local authorities, have successfully transformed the land provided by the authorities into a settlement site. With plastic sheets received from UNHCR, they have constructed temporary homes. The Congolese expressed satisfaction with the new site, but asked to receive the next food ration on time and requested assistance to meet water, sanitation, health and education needs.
Repatriation from Kenya
The fourth voluntary repatriation movement of refugees from Kakuma refugee camp to Eastern Equatoria took place on 24 August. Thirty refugees, mostly young men, were repatriated. They, along with their luggage, were transported in a commercial bus from Kakuma to Nadapal border, accompanied by a UNHCR vehicle. Armed escort was provided by Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Kakuma and the Government of Kenya. At Nadapal border, the returnees were received by Sudanese Government representatives and UNHCR staff from the Kapoeta office. In Kapoeta, the returnees were accommodated at the Losolia Rehabilitation and Development Agency (LRDA) compound, which serves as a temporary way station. UNHCR facilitated distribution of three-month food rations provided by WFP, tools and seeds provided by FAO and axes provided by UNHCR Kakuma. The following day, onward transportation to final drop off points close to the villages of origin started, accompanied by UNHCR staff and with armed escort provided by the local authorities. Overall, the repatriation movement went relatively smoothly, with some difficulties encountered due to heavy rain and poor road conditions. So far, UNHCR has repatriated a total of 1,378 refugees from Kenya.
"Come and tell" visits of Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei authorities to Kakuma refugee camp
Following a mission by UNHCR Kakuma and IOM to Kapoeta-Torit County (Eastern Equatoria) on 2-4 August, UNHCR Kakuma invited the Commissioners from Kapoeta South and Torit County to visit Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. The visit took place on 18-20 August. The objective of the visit was to inform the refugees in Kakuma camp about the current situation in South Sudan. UNHCR organised two meetings between the refugees and the delegation from Kapoeta/Torit. One meeting was held with the community leaders for Eastern Equatoria and members of the Repatriation Advisory Committee and another meeting with the Southern Sudanese community leaders.
The two Commissioners invited all Kakuma camp refugees to come back home as soon as possible, stating that the country needs their resources and skills to build South Sudan. They briefed about the provisions of the CPA and explained that South Sudan is now enjoying peace. They also informed that efforts to construct water/sanitation, heath and education facilities are increasing with the support of the international community. UNHCR Kapoeta staff explained about the repatriation procedures and assistance provided to returnees once in Eastern Equatoria.
During the week of 24-31 August, the Executive Director, the Director of the SRRC and the Assistant Education Coordinator of Twic East County (Jonglei) also visited Kakuma. The visit was organised by LWF. After paying a courtesy visit to UNHCR and implementing partners, the government representatives met with community leaders and members of the Repatriation Advisory Committee. The delegation informed that it is time for Sudanese in exile to return home and participate in the construction of South Sudan. To those who asked about food and services, they replied that refugees who repatriate by registering through UNHCR generally have no difficulty in accessing assistance. The delegation also informed that the State of Jonglei has a budget for education and that in their area they have a budget for 210 teachers; 60 have been recruited and 150 more are needed.
Spontaneous returns from the Central African Republic
Spontaneous returnees from the Central African Republic (CAR) continued to be interviewed, registered at Yubu, a border village, and accommodated at the way station in Tambura. Verification, de-registration and dispersal to their home areas are ongoing. These spontaneous returnees are being assisted the same way as the organised returnees - they are provided with food and non-food items as well as seeds and tools at the way station and with onward transportation to final destinations - as per the concept of "assisted self repatriation." To date, more than 750 spontaneous returnees from CAR have been registered and assisted.
Cross border meeting
On 7-8 September, UNHCR staff from Mboki (CAR), Tambura and Yambio held a cross-border meeting in Tambura. Key points discussed focused on procedures for "assisted self repatriation." It was agreed that refugees will be provided with a recognized document prior to their voluntary and spontaneous departure from CAR. This "attestation" (with family information and pictures) will be issued to all spontaneous returnees as a legal document for them to qualify for assistance in the country of origin. UNHCR Mboki will sensitize refugees on the importance of having this attestation. Given the time required to carry out sensitization activities, UNHCR Tambura will continue to assist returnees who do not have this document until the agreed cut-off date of 20 September. According to UNHCR Mboki, there is the possibility of resuming organised repatriation by early October.
Spontaneous returns on the Juba-Yei road
An inter-agency team led by UNHCR conducted a mission to Ganji and Kulipapa areas on the Juba-Yei road to verify the number of recently arrived spontaneous returnees. In the verification exercise, some 145 families (674 individuals) were identified as spontaneous returnees, mainly from Western Equatoria and Uganda. As a follow-up, on 31 August, an inter-agency team led by UNHCR delivered humanitarian assistance, including three-month food rations and non-food items, in the two areas of return. These areas still lack basic services, such as water, health and education, and are known to be infested with landmines and UXOs.
Returnee monitoring in Central and Western Equatoria
The Institute for Promotion of Civil Society (IPCS) and UNHCR conducted returnee monitoring and village assessments in Yei County covering villages such as Dar es Salaam, Lomuku, Lutaya, Hai Nyakama, Tarawa, Ghabat, Erap, Mahad, Wuluturu, Batere, Jigomoni and Kaya. In the course of the exercise, 99 heads of household (476 individuals) were interviewed as well as sub-chiefs, headmen, clan leaders, religious leaders, elders and other members of the community. Despite the returnees' safe arrival and good level of reintegration into their respective communities, they face challenges such as food shortages, inadequate health and education facilities as well as discrimination and violence against women.
On 31 August, UNHCR undertook a mission to Nzara town (Western Equatoria). In collaboration with the SRRC, seven returnee monitoring interviews were conducted. The local population of Li-Rangu expressed fear that the recent establishment of a SPLA garrison may result in increased violence. Another mission will be scheduled to other Payams of Nzara County to produce a comprehensive monitoring report since the county is one of the high return areas both from CAR and DRC.
Spontaneous returns in Malakal
A new procedure of registration of spontaneous returnees from countries of asylum is gradually being implemented by UNHCR Malakal. Spontaneous returnees from Ethiopia have been informed to approach UNHCR and to obtain voluntary registration forms. Upon arrival in Malakal and registration by UNHCR, they receive counseling and assistance. To date, 20 individuals with voluntary repatriation forms from Ethiopia and five from Egypt have been registered.
Detained returnees in Jonglei
UNHCR continues to monitor the situation of returnees in Bor imprisoned for various alleged crimes. Among the detained are 12 women, most of whom have been incarcerated for "adultery." UNHCR will further investigate and ensure that their rights are respected in prison.
On 22 August, during a visit to the prison in Bor town, together with UNDP and UNMIS CivPol, UNHCR found that two returnees from Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya have been incarcerated for two years on charges of murder and that their cases are not being tried in court. UNHCR immediately sought the attention of the county judge and requested action on these cases. The judge referred the cases to the high court and pledged to schedule the trials of the accused. UNHCR will monitor the court proceedings to ensure fair administration of justice.
Inter-agency mission to Blue Nile State
From 3 to 6 September, a multi-sector inter-agency mission visited Blue Nile State in the context of preparations for the UN Work Plan 2007 and to ensure planning at the regional level. The mission was composed of representatives from UNHCR, OCHA, UNICEF, WFP, FAO and UNOPS as well as the World Bank and the Embassy of the Netherlands. On the ground, it was joined by UNMIS and a number of NGOs working in Blue Nile as well as the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) and the SRRC. On account of its lead role for return and reintegration in Blue Nile, UNHCR led the mission.
The aim of the mission was to provide a realistic outline of the state priorities, planning assumptions and sectoral activities for inclusion in the Work Plan. To this end, the team held discussions with the Blue Nile State authorities, including the Wali (Governor), County Commissioners, ministerial departments and other local counterparts on their priority needs and planning for 2007. The team, along with the government counterparts and other partners, identified geographical and sectoral priorities for 2007 in support of spontaneous and organised voluntary return and reintegration in safety and dignity.
In addition to Damazin, the delegation visited Kurmuk and Chali. UNHCR has repatriated a significant number of refugees from Ethiopia to Chali.
IDP registration and verification in Blue Nile State
UNHCR Kurmuk continued to carry out IDP registration and verification, especially for IDP returnees. UNHCR submitted two lists of IDP returnees into Kurmuk Payam in need of food assistance to WFP. Following bilateral discussions, UNHCR and WFP resolved to carry out joint IDP returnee registration exercises to ensure expedient food and related assistance. It is worth noting that UNHCR has been receiving numerous lists and reports of returning IDPs, many in locations where UNHCR does not have access.
IDP village assessments in Blue Nile State
UNHCR carried out assessments of IDP villages in the Damazin and Roseires areas from 27 to 30 August. Most of the IDPs expressed the desire to return to their places of origin which include Geissan, Kurmuk and Bau. One of the push factors seems to be the rent payable for agricultural land since most of the IDPs are subsistence farmers and can hardly afford these rents. UNHCR is presently in touch with HAC/SRRC to address the IDPs' concerns.
Activities at Lologo temporary way station
Activities at Lologo temporary way station in Juba, where about 1,000 Bor Dinka IDPs en route to Bor are residing, continued during the reporting period. UNHCR called an inter-agency meeting with the IDP leaders to discuss issues on the running of the clinic in Lologo. It was agreed that traditional birth attendants, midwives and community health workers from the community would be trained to assist in the provision of health services. UNHCR also started the weekly provision of trucks on Wednesdays to deliver firewood to the IDPs. Moreover, UNHCR organised school materials for the temporary basic school in Lologo which will soon be opened.
In Kajo Keji, the Protection Working Group meeting held on 21 August discussed the situation of the IDPs in Mondikolok camp. Since June, the IDPs have been discontinued from food assistance by Norwegian People's Aid (NPA). The authorities contend that the majority of the IDPs have gone back to their places of origin, but this has not been verified by the authorities. UNHCR continues to assert that the IDPs have a right to return voluntarily, whereas the authorities, and as a result NPA, discontinued food assistance in order to encourage the IDPs to return.
As agreed at the follow up meeting, UNHCR and the SRRC conducted a verification exercise in Mondikolok camp. It was confirmed that more than half of the IDPs left since NPA discontinued food assistance. Of a total of 314 families who were initially registered, UNHCR and the SRRC verified that 145 families remained, many of whom are women, children and elderly. WFP has agreed to provide a three-month food assistance package to these IDPs. Discussions with NPA to resume food assistance, however, failed. It is not confirmed that those that left the camp have returned to their places of origin.
Gender Working Group in Lakes State
The Gender Working Group in Lakes State has had two meetings to date and, as a priority defined by the Ministry of Social Welfare, will begin collecting baseline data on gender issues in the State. A questionnaire is being developed by UNHCR and Women for Women International to collect information from communities and organisations. The process to collect and analyze the information as well as make recommendations should take approximately six weeks.
Sexual and gender-based violence coordination forum
UNHCR staff from Yei attended a sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) coordination forum on 14 August chaired by the Sudan Law Society whose members include UN agencies, NGOs and government bodies including the police. The forum is in the process of developing and implementing a referral system and compiling a list of agencies implementing SGBV projects which can contribute to the prevention and management of SGBV cases.
Harmful traditional practices
The Protection Working Group in Damazin discussed the scale of the problem of female genital mutilation in Blue Nile State and measures to be adopted against this harmful traditional practice. The group invited the concerned officer from the Ministry of Health to report on the current situation in the State and on programmes carried out by the Government. The estimated number of circumcised women in Blue Nile State is 87 percent. The Ministry of Health runs training programmes for midwifes and an awareness-raising campaign, but success in combating this practice seems to be limited. The Protection Working Group agreed that a strategy against female genital mutilation needs to be developed in close cooperation with the Ministry. UNHCR will complete a situation analysis and contact the Ministry of Social Welfare, the Ministry of Education and Child Friendly Initiative in Blue Nile State to provide information on programmes carried out in the State. UNICEF and the Sudanese Association Against Harmful Traditions will be invited to brief about their activities in other States in Sudan.
UNHCR conducted a two-day mobilization workshop for administrators, chiefs, SRRC field coordinators from five Payams and 15 Bomas in Yei County. A total of 40 persons, including three field monitors from IPCS (the agency implementing the returnee monitoring project in Yei, Morobo and Lainya Counties of Central Equatoria State), participated in the workshop. This was the second in a series of workshops intended to increase community support and participation in the repatriation and reintegration process. Topics covered during the workshop were: the role of the host government, UNHCR and local communities in repatriation and reintegration; the challenges to successful reintegration and community-based solutions; the role of the communities in prevention of SGBV; and community participation in child protection.
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