The situation in and around Juba has been relatively calm. The peace talks between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda are going on satisfactorily. The three-week grace period for LRA withdrawal from South Sudan is effectively ending on 1 July.
In Malakal, preparations by the UN Department for Safety and Security (UNDSS) on security, especially with regard to the deadline of 9 July for the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) to be de-deployed to the North as per the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) requirements, are in place. Contingency plans are being finalised in case the security situation escalates and relocation needs to take place.
Two security incidents in Kurmuk during the reporting period cast a shadow over what has generally been a peaceful environment in Blue Nile State. On 9 June, SPLA soldiers started shooting to express their dissatisfaction with the delay of payment of salaries - eight people were injured. Arrests were made, but tensions have remained over the incident, as it has not been fully resolved. On 13 June, a soldier fired on a group of women and children killing one person. Reports indicate that it is a criminal rather than a politicallymotivated act. However, this might cause escalations.
Mid-year progress review
In 2007, UNHCR set a target to bring back home a total of 102,000 Sudanese refugees from neighbouring countries by road and air repatriation movements and to provide them with individual repatriation packages and community-based reintegration support. The planning parameters for 2007 were reviewed at the UNHCR Regional Retreat in Khartoum on 5-6 February 2007, where a corridor by corridor analysis was carried out. The retreat resulted in broad agreement that a high degree of flexibility in the deployment of staff and reallocation of resources was required in order to respond swiftly to changing circumstances. It was agreed, inter alia, to continue to actively facilitate return, taking into account security, protection and assistance benchmarks, and to prioritize returns from Ethiopia before the onset of the rainy season. Repatriation from Ethiopia was prioritized because the overwhelming majority of the refugee population was eager to return home before the rainy season.
Furthermore, Tripartite Commission meetings between the Government of Sudan, UNHCR and respective governments took place with Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda where concrete resolutions on ways of expediting repatriation of Sudanese refugees from these countries were made. A number of cross-border planning meetings also took place with respective countries of asylum, which helped to find local solutions and led to improved corridor by corridor coordination to speed up repatriation. So far in 2007, the repatriation figure reached 53,585, of which 39,220 were assisted by UNHCR and 14,365 returned home spontaneously.
Some of the major successes achieved so far this year include the completion of voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) on 10 April and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 2 June - both protracted refugee situations. The other major successes for UNHCR are the opening of the Bambodi and Pagak corridors to Blue Nile and Upper Nile State respectively on 10 March. These corridors, in addition to the existing one through Kurmuk, enabled UNHCR to accelerate repatriation from Ethiopia. Acceleration of repatriation from Ethiopia resulted in the closure of Yarenja camp on 28 March, another protracted refugee situation. In addition, on 14 April, UNHCR also launched the first air repatriation from Ethiopia. Through a combination of road and air repatriation, UNHCR repatriated a total of 18,241 refugees from Fugnido, Dimma, Sherkole and Yarenja camps mainly to Blue Nile and Upper Nile States.
By and large, the pre-rainy season targets for CAR, DRC and Ethiopia have been met. Repatriation from Kenya and Uganda are ongoing and are expected to continue throughout the rainy season. After the rainy season, repatriation from Ethiopia will resume, while movements from Kenya and Uganda will continue.
Meanwhile, assisted self-repatriation continues from most countries of asylum. On 23 June, repatriation of Sudanese refugees to South Sudan and Blue Nile State reached a cumulative total of 155,759 since operations started in December 2005. Of this number, 56,862 returned through organized movements, 8,381 through the assisted self-repatriation scheme and 90,516 spontaneously.