Home | News    Friday 26 November 2010

Return of South Sudanese IDP’s should be de-linked from referenda - UN


November 25, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The return of Southern Sudanese to their places of origin in the South should be a phased process and not rushed on the basis of political considerations, a United Nations official said on Wednesday.

Thousands of Southerners living in North Sudan have began migrating South ahead of the referendum slated for next January which is widely expected to create the world’s newest state.

“Our message has been very clear and consistent from the beginning and that is to de-link the return process to the south and Abyei from any political agenda, especially de-linking it from the timeline of the referendum,” said Georg Charpentier, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Relief Coordinator in Sudan at a press conference.

Charpentier underscored that it is important to remember that returns must be in line with the “absorptive capacity in return areas”.

The self-determination right, part of the 2005 deal that also created a power-sharing government with Salva Kiir as vice president to Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir, is viewed as a gateway to freedom in the south.

Sudanese official in the North have made remarks in recent months stating that Southerners in the North will automatically lose their citizenship rights property, employment, habitation, education and medication should secession be the outcome of the referendum.

Activists have said there are now growing fears about what an independence vote would mean for an estimated 1.5 million southerners living around Khartoum and other northern towns, many of them long-term residents of ramshackle refugee camps.

Observers say that these threats are responsible for the low turnout by Southerners in the North to register for voting in the referendum, which started last week, over fear of intimidation and being identified thus facing risk of being targets of reprisals.

About five million south Sudanese are eligible to vote, including an estimated 500,000 to two million abroad, according to UN estimates.

Registration offices will remain open until December 1.

Charpentier acknowledged that even though there have been constant returns since the 2005 peace accord it seems that the process is more accelerated now due to fears on their future should the South opt for independence.

“Now, ahead of the referendum, these returns have been somehow accelerated by a feeling of uncertainty by many of the southerners in the north and also northerners in the south. Their uncertainties are mostly related to the post-referendum situation,” he said.

“That is why we have stressed the importance of informing properly all these people about the rights they have, eligibility criteria for the referendum and so on, and to encourage the authorities in both the north and the south, to ensure – as they have done now and then – to reassure the southerners in the north and the northerners in the south that whatever the outcome of the referendum, their rights and their choice would be respected and that they would be able to move freely and in a protected manner. But the main reason now is certainly some level of uncertainty among the people,” Charpentier added.

The UN official emphasized that they are working hard “have to avoid creating a situation of dependency”.

“[W]e have to avoid creating IDP and transit camps. Once we set up a big IDP camp of 20 – 30,000 people, we more than often get stuck with it for a number of years after that and you create unnecessary dependency among the population. In order not to get to that kind of situation, the numbers should remain at a reasonable level” he said.

Charpentier said that they have requested a $63 million “as an advance on the 2011 Humanitarian Action Plan”.


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