In the wake of Garang's death, USCRI urges Sudan to remain focused on peace and development so refugees can return home

WASHINGTON DC, August 1, 2005 - The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) offers its condolences to the people of Sudan, and to southern Sudanese in particular, in the wake of Vice President John Garang De Mabior's tragic death. We urge the Sudanese government and leadership in the South to stay focused on implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) so that the nearly 500,000 southern Sudanese refugees remaining in neighboring countries can return home. "The best way to honor the memory of John Garang is for the Government of Sudan to stay the course on the path to peace," says USCRI President Lavinia Limón.
Just last week, USCRI Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Eskinder Negash undertook a mission to southern Sudan to assess the needs of returning refugees. Negash found that there is not much available to those coming home; "Unfortunately, refugees who are coming back to South Sudan are looking at what were vibrant town centers such as Yei, seeing that there is nothing there for them, and returning to refugee camps in other countries." The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports more than 5,000 Sudanese refugees tried to go home, only to return to refugee camps in Kenya over the past few months. "Given the failed 1972 peace agreement and ongoing crisis in Darfur, some southern Sudanese question the sincerity of the Khartoum government's commitment to the peace agreement," says Negash. The peace agreement signed in January stipulates that oil revenues will be shared between the North and South, yet Negash found that "everyone is waiting to see what the international community will bring to them." After assessing the situation on the ground, Negash saw that "sustainable peace in the South depends on the international community's commitment to rebuild the shattered economy of south Sudan and the proper investment of oil revenues." Without a sustained commitment to rebuild the South, the CPA will fail. The people of Sudan cannot afford such a missed opportunity.

John Garang De Mabior, former head of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), was a charismatic leader for the self-determination of the people in the South. However, years of fighting have left the area devastated. Infighting among the SPLA also caused significant destruction, as various rebel leaders fought over whether the South should unite with the North or secede. In the aftermath of Garang's death, the United States must appeal to the central government as well as leaders in the South for unity. The return of hundreds of thousands of refugees, many of whom have lived in refugee camps for decades, depends on it.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) is a non-profit, nongovernmental organization that has served refugees and immigrants and defended the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons worldwide since 1911. USCRI's resettlement program and network of community-based partner agencies help thousands of refugees build new lives in the United States each year. USCRI publishes the World Refugee Survey and Refugee Reports.