Peace talks between the Ugandan Government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) mediated by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for LRA-affected areas, Joachim Chissano, resumed in Juba on 26 April after a three-month suspension. The meeting extended an earlier cessation of hostilities agreement to June, giving the LRA six weeks to leave all their hide-outs and assemble at Ri-Kwangba in Western Equatoria State, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Information made available indicated that LRA members have begun their East-West movement to link up with their leadership in Ri-Kwangba. Meanwhile, armed men believed to be LRA elements were reported to have attacked Dobo/Migu villages in Tore payam on 22 May. They abducted two women and looted shops, houses and livestock. The UN Area Security Coordinator in Yei urged the Security Management Team to take extra precautions since other groups of LRA may also be on the move to Ri-Kwangba. Tore is at security level III (transitional).
Update on repatriation operations
The reporting period was marked by the completion of the repatriation operation from the DRC. The operation, launched a year ago on 7 June 2006, ended on 2 June 2007, when the last of 10 flights chartered to transport some 470 refugees from Dungu landed in Yambio in Western Equatoria State carrying the last group of returnees. Poor road and security conditions linking Dungu in the DRC and Yambio in South Sudan had prompted UNHCR to organize an airlift of the 470 refugees living in camps near Dungu.
DRC is the second country after the Central African Republic (CAR) to complete organized repatriation to South Sudan (voluntary repatriation from CAR was officially closed on 11 April 2007). UNHCR estimates that up to 5,200 Sudanese refugees may still be living on their own in various towns and villages in the DRC However, they have not approached UNHCR for return assistance and it is assumed that they have opted to remain in the DRC. Others may still opt to return at a later date using their own means.
Voluntary repatriation from Ethiopia to Upper Nile and Blue Nile stopped on 15 May and 5 May respectively due to the onset of the rainy season.
Meanwhile, movements by road from Uganda to Yei and Kajo Keji (Central Equatoria) and from Kakuma camp in Kenya to Eastern Equatoria continued, as did movements by air from Kakuma camp to Jonglei, Warrab, Unity and Upper Nile. Movements by road from Kakuma camp to Bor (Jonglei) via Kapoeta, Eastern Equatoria, and Juba started on 24 May. The decision to start repatriation by land to Jonglei was taken at a cross-border meeting in Kenya on 2 May, between representatives from UNHCR and GTZ.
Assisted self-repatriation during the same period continued from CAR, DRC, Egypt, Ethiopia and Uganda. Under the self-repatriation scheme, refugees receive a "voluntary repatriation form" in countries of asylum and are assisted with return packages and reintegration support from UNHCR upon arrival in South Sudan, after presentation of their verified voluntary repatriation form.
On 2 June, repatriation of Sudanese refugees to South Sudan and Blue Nile State reached a cumulative total of 154,662 since operations started in December 2005. Of this number, 55,932 returned through organized movements, 8,214 through the assisted self-repatriation scheme and 90,516 spontaneously.