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Inter-ethnic violence in southern Sudan threatens return of displaced - UN

7 October 2009 – Significant challenges remain to the return of displaced people in southern Sudan following the 2005 peace accord between the Government and separatists, particularly this year’s inter-ethnic violence, a senior United Nations refugee official warned today.

“Long-term stability is essential for sustainable return, along with access to such essentials as health services, education and jobs,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative Peter de Clercq told a news conference in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital.

“Potentially, if you are looking very much at the implementation of the CPA which is extremely important for the overall peace process in the country, yes, we could characterize this as serious,” he said, referring to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ending the two-decades-long north-south civil war that killed at least 2 million people.

But he voiced pride in UNHCR’s contribution to the successful return so far of nearly 2.5 million displaced persons, including 328,000 refugees from outside Sudan’s border, out of an estimated 4.5 million driven from their homes by the war, while acknowledging that violent inter-ethnic clashes throughout this year have caused new displacements.

“This situation could take a much more permanent character so we really take it seriously,” Mr. de Clercq said.

He also noted other concerns in Sudan, including the east, where the flow of refugees from neighbouring countries, overwhelmingly Eritrea but also Ethiopia and Somalia, continues at an annual rate of 1,800 a month, and the strife-torn Darfur region where, despite a reduction in open armed conflict, 2.7 million people remain displaced, still vulnerable to isolated attacks and banditry.

Moreover, continuing attacks by the rebel Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have driven 18,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) into Sudan, where they are seeking shelter along with some 68,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

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