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Ethiopia says 17,000 Sudanese refugees returned home

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January 30, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Some 17.000 Sudanese refugees returned recently to their homeland in the Blue Nile, announced Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Monday.

Fight broke up between the Sudanese army and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement –North (SPLM-N) in the Blue Nile on the first day of September 2011 as direct result for the clashes with Khartoum in the south Kordofan state since June of last year.

In a speech reported by the national news agency at the launch of IOM report for 2011 in the Ethiopian capital, Hailemariam said his country received some 35,000 Sudanese refugees who fled the violence that took place last September in the neighbourging Blue Nile.

He however said that 17,000 Sudanese have now voluntarily returned to their homeland, stressing that Ethiopia is pursuing a policy of receiving immigrants that are coming to its land and providing care until their problem is resolved.

The Sudanese army in November retook the control of all the big towns and inhabited areas in the Blue Nile from the SPLM-N fighters. With the seizure of Kurmuk, main rebel stronghold town in the state, the group controls now small areas at the border with South Sudan.

Ethiopia who leads the IGAD regional organisation tried to mediate the government and the rebel group but failed to reconcile the positions of the two parties.

The fight between Khartoum and the SPLM-N who have historical relations with the Juba ruling party might ignite armed conflict with the newly independent South Sudan; as the latter has also a set of differences with Sudan.

The continued fighting between Sudan and the SPLM-N particularly in the South Kordofan state pushed the international community to predict a new humanitarian crisis in the region as the UN officials say over 500,000 refugees are expected to flee the region..

(ST)