Sudan: Interagency Assessment Report, Yassin and Seleah, South Darfur, 24 May 2005


  1. Introduction
    UNOCHA proposed to UN agencies and NGOs operating in South Darfur to conduct a joint assessment in Yassin and Seleah after having received reports that spontaneous returns, encouraged by local tribal reconciliation processes, were taking place in these areas. This inter-agency assessment complements several other field assessments that have been conducted by Samaritan's Purse and Merlin in Yassin since February and March 2005, an OCHA/ UNDSS/Merlin rapid assessment conducted in Marla, Sania Fandu and Yassin on 16 March and an OCHA/WFP/IOM field assessment conducted in Assalaya and Maalia (Ed Daein Locality) on 26 March. The main objectives of this inter-agency assessment were to 1. confirm information already available on returns and better understand return trends, 2. gather complementary information on local reconciliation processes, 3. assess conditions of returns and humanitarian needs, 4. draw humanitarian community's attention on Yassin and Seleah areas.

2. Participants

Cedric Petit, Hum. Affairs Officer
Edem Wosornu, Protection Officer
Idriss Yousif, Field Coordinator

Joyce Mutiso, VMU/MCM Officer
Al Sayed Abdallah, VMU/MCM Assistant Officer

Michel Denis, Assessment Officer
Richard Girmaya

Clement Chibewe, WES Officer

Samaritan's Purse:
Andy Shaver, Program Coordinator (SPIR)
Yousif Bilel

Carlos Diaz Garcia, Program Coordinator

Mohamed ... Watsan technician

Karri A. Goldner, Senior Program Officer

Mohamed Farah Mohamed HAC Commissioner Sheriah

3. Assessment Methodology

The assessment was conducted through group or bilateral interviews with key informants (traditional and administrative leaders), women, herders, water technicians and randomly selected individuals. Upon arrival in Yassin and Seleah, the team was introduced to the local traditional leaders and a short discussion allowed to introduce the team and mission purposes to the population. Because of the collapse of social services in these areas local sector experts were generally not available to support the assessment team. The team then divided in different groups focusing on return issues, reconciliation and security, water, food security and livelihood. Discussions on returns that were held with the Seleah tribal leaders and population were made in presence of a large number of military personnel.

4. Trip itinerary

The assessment was conducted on 24 May 2005. As Yassin and Seleah were "no-go" locations by road for UN agencies transport was provided by UNHAS (1 MI-8 helicopter). The team first moved to Yassin (3 hours on ground) then Seleah (2 hours on ground) before flying back to Nyala. GPS coordinates for these two locations are: Yassin N 11°32.446' E 025°33.587', Seleah N 11°40.413' E 025°42.208'.

5. Key Findings

- Most of the villages located in the eastern part of the Yassin administrative unit have been directly affected by the last conflict. Systematic attacks led by Arab militias in July-August 2004 led to these villages being completely deserted at the end of August 2004.

- After having fled to Gereida, Sania Fandu, Muhajiriya, Nyala or to surrounding forests and wadis, IDPs from Yassin and Seleah started returning back to their areas of origin at the end of 2004. Returns have been continuous since then.

- Local traditional leaders estimate that about 10.000 persons are now living in or around Yassin (2.500 to 5.000 in Yassin, 3.000 in Umm Boim, others scattered around Yassin). 6.250 persons are reported living in and around Seleah. Population estimates could not be confirmed by the mission members.

- Returns to Yassin and Seleah appear to have been spontaneous and there was no evidence of involuntary return. Returnees generally did not report having been contacted by Government officials prior to returning to their villages of origin (refer to Annex 2, IOM note on returns of IDPs to Yassin).

- Returns to Um Boim (3.000 persons, not confirmed) were said to have been encouraged and supported by local authorities and/or the Committee of Voluntary Return.

- Reconciliation talks between Birgits and Rezeigats traditional leaders have been initiated by South Darfur authorities in September 2004 and have been ongoing at local level since then. Agreements regarding peaceful cohabitation, protection of cattle, free movement of persons and cattle and return of Birgit populations in specific villages have been recently reached at local level. The mission has however been unable to verify the legitimacy of these talks and will require UNMIS to further investigate on this matter.

- All returnees seem to be willing to cultivate, partly to produce minimum food supplies for 2005-2006 but also to ensure that they will not lose their rights on the lands they were previously exploiting.

- Despite the recent involvement of several NGOs in Yassin (Samaritan's Purse, Merlin) and Seleah (SPCR), humanitarian assistance has been non-existent or very limited until now in these two areas. First food distributions should be organized in Yassin on 26 May. Water is available in limited quantities and needs to be paid for in Yassin and Seleah. Education services, permanent medical structures are inexistent.

- Lack of humanitarian assistance in Yassin and Seleah seem to have been the main constraint preventing IDPs quick return. Returnees in Yassin and Seleah and IDPs Sheikhs living in Nyala camps generally declared that large number of people would come back to Yassin and Seleah if food, free water and seeds are made available in these two locations.

- Security remains a primary concern in some specific villages, but even in these cases IDPs are ready to return to be able to cultivate and thus prevent their land from being occupied by others.

- With the deployment of military units in Yassin and Seleah, the security environment has improved since August 2004, however Yassin returnees still report high levels of banditry on the main road leading to Nyala and Ed Daein. Furthermore the mission understood from individual interviews that Yassin returnees still consider insecure areas located close to Rezeigat areas.

- Even if reconciliation talks have included arrangements allowing free movement of livestock during the next migration (June-August), the forthcoming movement of cattle East and SouthWest of Yassin may again contribute to raising tensions between farmers (mainly Birgits returnees) and herders (mainly Rezeigats nomads).

- In case cattle migration is not allowed through rebel-held areas around Kaladju/Muhajiriya and Abu Sufian/Haskanita, a very important number of animals will remain blocked in the Maalia-Assalaya area East of Yassin and Seleah. Because of lack of land and resources, such a situation could compromise reconciliation initiatives and would negatively impact on returnee's safety in Yassin and Seleah. Sedentary and semi-sedentary Rezeigat populations living in Maalia/Assalaya may also be directly affected.

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