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Yida Refugees' Assessment Report

28.09.11

Yida Refugees’ Humanitarian Assessment Report:

Meeting with Nuba refugees at Yida Camp

 

By: James Mafer
Projects Coordinator, Unity Community Organization and Enlightenment Trust (UCOET)
Date: 20/9/2011

Assessment methodology

A team of three staff members of UCOET, James Mafer, David Kat, and Michael Miyom, visited Yida and Yida Refugee Camp between 10 and 17 September. The team used the following approaches to collect data from refugees and the host community:

  1. Group discussions and meetings
  2. Individual interviews
  3. Observations

 

I. Background:

In the aftermath of the conflict in Southern Kordofan state since 4th June 2011, thousands of fleeing refugees have flooded over what is now an international frontier into Unity State in the Republic of South Sudan, especially to Panrieng County which is bordering Southern Kordofan to the north1. The refugees are survivors of systematic aerial bombardment and other attacks by the Sudan Armed Forces which, in the words of one refugee Ali Alim from Damam village South of Kadugli town, “have turned villages into ashes”.

The fighting in Southern Kordofan erupted between the Sudan Armed Forces and Sudan Liberation Army (SPLA/N) on 4 June 2011 when the election results, which were said to have resulted in the election of the National Congress Party (NCP) candidate Ahmed Mohamed Haroun, who is accused of war crimes in Darfur, were disputed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM/N) candidate Abdel Aziz Adam Hilu. After the election, the governing National Congress Party started to place restrictions on the SPLM and the presence of the SPLA forces within Southern Kordofan state. In April and May 2011 Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) had already attacked and bombed areas in Abyei. In the area of Nuba Mountains pressure led to minor clashes which later erupted into the conflict.

Hussein al-Gumbulla Mandra, one of the refugees’ representatives in the camp, stated that the conflict had broken out as a result of the detention of SPLM cadres soon after the election results were announced in Kadugli. “After our cadres were detained and killed, the war erupted and spread rapidly”, he said. Hussein Mandra believes the aim of this war was to abort the remaining implementation processes of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), especially the popular consultation supposed to take place in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States and the security arrangements regarding the SPLA presence in the North after the secession of South Sudan. He said: “This war was instigated by the National Congress Party and was meant to crush the Nuba in order to put an end to their grumbling about the stalled implementation of the CPA as regards the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile protocols”.

Refugee crowd waiting for water at Yida

 

II. Survivors’ testimonies and the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan:

The majority of the refugees who have fled Southern Kordofan are from localities round Kadugli namely: Shat Damam, Shat Sufia, Shat Umzerig, Shat Faru, Tuma and Tuku, Kafina, Miri Bara, Katcha, Daloka, Masakeen, Elhemir, Umshoran, Kuta, Kululu, Turawery, Sabori, Kulba Abuhashiim, Umdorein, Damba, Tefery, Kuolyiat.

The Nuba tribes that have fled their villages to Yida camp are the Miri, Shat, Tuna, Katcha, and Moro tribes.

All groups in the camp assert that Sudan Army Forces (SAF) have targeted and continue to target Nuba villages around Kadugli town and in different localities where Nuba make up the majority of the population, especially in those areas where the SPLM candidates were reported to have won during May 2011 elections.

The SAF aerial bombardments target human beings and animal resources such as cattle in the Nuba villages. One survivor from Shat Damam village reported that an Antonov plane dropped seven bombs on the village four times during the day. Diagram 1 shows the bombardment circle used by SAF in Southern Kordofan war. Sudan armed forces are not only targeting and pursuing the SPLA in this war, they are also clearly targeting civilians. Houses are set on fire and villages that are seized by the SAF are looted, with military trucks carrying the properties back to Kadugli. In addition to the looting of villages by the SAF, people are forced to stay in villages or told to go to Kadugli where departure from the town was not allowed. One woman described Kadugli town as an “open prison”.

Refugees reported that many attacks were launched by the Kafi Tayaar militias. Kafi Tayaar is a notorious militia leader whose militia is allied with the Sudan Government Popular Defence Forces (PDF) and has been a source of continuous attacks in the region for the last three decades. His militia was not integrated into the organized forces as set out in the security arrangements of the CPA. All the successive governors of Southern Kordofan state have tried to integrate his forces but failed due to Amir Kafi Tayaar’s influence because of his friendship with President Omar Al-Bashir. It is reported that Amir Kafi Tayaar is organizing and recruiting into his militia ranks young people from his tribe of Shat. For 28 years the militias of Kafi Tayaar have been targeting Christians and SPLM members within the Shat tribes. Churches have been destroyed over and over again by his militias, but the perpetrators have never been brought to justice. According to members of the Shat tribes, the main lieutenants of Kafi Tayaar are Kafi Churchur, Abdallah Suleiman and Kafi Mamun.

According to the refugees:

“ Kafi Tayaar is arming people in our villages at gunpoint to fight his own people; therefore, we call on the international community to stop a second ethnic cleansing and the replication of Janjaweed practices in Southern Kordofan”

When President Omar al-Bashir announced a truce during his visit to Kadugli, the militias of Amir Kafi Tayaar and SAF gunships continued to carry out their attacks in the villages.

 

  1. Aerial bombardment circle around the villages

 

Recent reported victims of the conflict around Kadugli:

No

Date and Place

Damages

1

17 June 2011 Shat Faru

1 child and 13 goats

2

19 July 2011 Shat Damam

4 people injured, 4 goats and 3 cows killed

3

19 July 2011 Kafina

9 people killed while buying meat in the butchery

4

30 August 2011 Nadumu

Looted and burned down

 

 

III Yida Camp: The refugees’ situation in the camp:

“ Children and women are in a dire situation due to lack of basic human needs, the water is not enough and we are fetching water from one water yard with the host community”. Hussein el-Gumbulla Madra

There are about 9000 Nuba refugees in Yida camp and around 250 to 500 refugees are arriving in the camp every day. They are welcomed in Yida both by the local community and the local government, however, only one NGO, Samaritans’ Purse, is based in the camp, providing the refugees with food aid from the World Food Program (WFP).

The following were the main concerns raised by the individuals and groups of the refugees:

  1. Only one organization, Samaritan’s Purse, has a presence on the ground to provide assistance to the refugees.
  2. The food ration is very small, three kilos of sorghum to last for seven days, with nothing but sorghum as their diet, and it is difficult to survive on it.
  3. The hygiene situation in the camp is poor.

Presence of UN and INGOs:

  1. UNICEF: working with unaccompanied children by organizing sport and entertainments.
  2. UNHCR: having volunteers to register new and old arrivals to the camp.
  3. Samaritan Purse: managing the camp, distributing food aid
  4. CARE: providing health care and nutrition to children.
  5. IOM: registration of the refugees.

III.1 Human rights and Protection in the camp:

The refugees’ camp is situated near the host community, giving a feeling of security and helping the refugees to feel accepted. The refugees need psychological assistance to recover from the horrific experiences they had in Southern Kordofan; however only children receive such assistance, helped by UNICEF through volunteers among the refugees.Shelter is provided by Samaritan’s Purse; a few families have no tents and are still sleeping in the open. A one-year-old child was bitten by a scorpion while sleeping under a tree with his mother. The lack of many basic needs in the camp is a result of the fact that Yida has not been accessible by road because of the rain.

There are no incidents relating to insecurity or human rights abuses reported in Yida camp. There are a few police who keep order in the payam and provide security to the area. It can be said that so far the safety of the refugees has been guaranteed but Unity state government officials with the UNHCR are pressing for the relocation of the refugees due to fears that Yida camp can be targeted by Sudan armed forces (SAF) jeopardizing the safety the refugees as the camp is located only 47 kilometers from the border.

Locally, the payam administration and the host community have offered assistance to the refugees in the following ways:

  1. Nuba refugees are allowed to cut trees for building poles but not for selling purposes.
  2. The payam clinic is accessed by both the host community and the refugees
  3. Payam offices are used as stores to store the refugees’ food.
  4. Refugees are allowed to cultivate
  5. Refugees manage their own affairs with no interference from the host community and the local authorities.

III.2 Health, Sanitation and Hygiene:

CARE Somalia and South Sudan is providing health services as well as the nutrition to the children. It is reported that many children have symptoms of acute malnutrition and that five people have died since the arrival of the refugees to Yida camp: one case of malaria, three cases of malnutrition and one woman who died while giving birth. Hygiene and sanitation is a major concern in the camp. There are no latrines and people defecate in the open. Refugees have complained about the poor hygiene and have requested provision of soap for washing. One piece of soap is sold at five South Sudanese pounds (5 SSP, about $1.8) in Yida.

III.3 Water:

There is one water yard in Yida which is used by the local community and now has to be shared with 9,000 Nuba refugees. The water yard itself is an unfinished project with no water tank to store the water. It operates three times a day. Many families including the host community now prefer to drink from the stagnant water instead of queuing or fighting to get water at the water yard. Samaritan’s Purse has plans to increase the water stores in order to reduce the clashes over the water point by providing water bladders. Provision of additional water points is essential.

III.4 Education:

There is no school for the refugee children. However, there is a local school with no rooms, no seats and one teacher for the local community. UNICEF has assessed the children’s needs and has managed to employ volunteers as social workers. The refugee children do not attend the local school which is not able to accommodate the such a large number, estimated to be 4000 school age refugee children, in addition to the local children. The UNICEF social workers are not teachers by profession, however, they can fill the teachers gap. There are 500 unaccompanied children in the camp, many of whom have lost parents in the fighting or whose parents have fled to different locations within Southern Kordofan. If the war continues raging in Southern Kordofan, these children are vulnerable to recruitment into the ranks of the SPLA in the near future.

III.5 grinding mills:

There is one grinding mill in the village serving the whole area as well as the refugees. The queuing at the grinding mill is one of the worst experiences for a refugee because women and young girls can spend the whole night waiting to grind their sorghum. One of the disadvantages is that the owner charges a lot of money 7 SSP (about $2.50) to grind a kilo of sorghum which the refugees can not afford.

IV Relocation of Refugees:

For several weeks now, there have been discussions between the UNHCR, INGOs and the Unity state government about the relocation of the refugees from Yida payam in northern Panrieng, (which is thought too close to the border for long-term security) to Nyiel payam in southern Panrieng. However, the refugees are not happy with the relocation proposal because the new location is far from their homes. Because Yida is similar to Nuba Mountains, the refugees prefer to stay in Yida rather than to be relocated to place like Nyiel. In addition they feel that Nyiel has environmental disadvantages. The following factors were mentioned by the refugees:

  1. Nyiel payam is a muddy and swampy place
  2. Nyiel is an oil field area.
  3. Yida payam resembles the Nuba mountains and Nuba like to cultivate groundnuts and sesame which can be cultivated in Yida and not in Nyiel
  4. The Nuba use trees for many purposes, for instance charcoal for cooking, firewood and making shelters, while there are no trees in Nyiel.
  5. Nyiel lies at the border between the Dinka and the Nuer, and these tribes meet with their cattle at the toch (natural rain water catchments) during the dry season. This frequently results in raiding and counter raiding of cattle which often ends in fighting.
  6. The indigenous people of Yida are peaceable and hospitable towards the refugees.

V. Darfurians in Yida camp:

During 2007 and 2008 many IDPs from Darfur started to settle in Kauda in Southern Kordofan but with the eruption of war in Southern Kordofan some IDPs who have managed to walk the long distances to Yida have arrived with the Nuba. There are 57 people from Darfur staying in one cluster in the refugees’ camp. When asked if more Darfurians were likely to arrive in Yida, Mohamed Adam, who said he was from North Darfur, confirmed that he is expecting more Darfurians to arrive during the dry season to South Sudan from Southern Kordofan.

VI. Conclusion and recommendations:

The situation of the refugees is scary in the light of the lack of assistance provided. Very little assistance has been given so far. Many of the INGOs and the UN presence in Unity State have decided with the government that they will only assist the refugees if they are relocated, but relocation is seen against the will of the refugees.

The road to Yida is very difficult because of rain, however; Samaritan’s Purse has managed to organize plane charters and food drops to Yida where there is a small air strip. As far as their security is concerned, at the moment refugees feel they are safe as long as they are within borders of South Sudan.

The Assessment team makes the following recommendations:

  1. Provision of more water bladders to ease the conflict over sparse water resources.
  2. Immediate installation of an emergency school in the camp to provide education to the children
  3. Organization of hygiene awareness and provision of washing soap to refugees
  4. Provision of freegrinding mills for the increasing number of refugees
  5. Provision of non food items (NFIs) (e.g. water jerry cans, plastic sheets for shelters)
  6. Assisting the refugees in cultivating pieces of land given to them by the host community.
  7. Peaceful negotiation of any relocation plan, which must be carried out only with the agreement of the refugees. Threats to withdraw services must not be used to force the Nuba refugees to relocate to Nyiel payam against their will.

 

1 See OCHA map of Unity State: http://www.unsudanig.org/library/mapcatalogue/south/data/state/SS_0026_U_State_A4_20100308_300_1.pdf

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