UN BEEFS UP MONITORING OF RETURNEES IN SOUTHERN SUDAN
24 November - As part of its efforts to assist in the return of refugees and displaced persons, the United Nations in Sudan has enhanced its monitoring of the number of people going back to their homes in the country's south.
Speaking at a press conference in Khartoum today, the UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Georg Charpentier, said the UN and its partners, in collaboration with national and state authorities, have enhanced monitoring of departures in the country's north, as well as in key transit hubs and return areas.
One of the tasks of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) is to facilitate and coordinate, within its capabilities and areas of deployment, the voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons. By the end of 2009, total returns had climbed to more than 2.3 million, consisting of both organized and spontaneous returns.
“The Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission has reported 18,213 state-organized returns to Unity (state) with buses continuing to arrive,” Mr. Charpentier said. “The first return convoys to the Abyei Area, organized by the Abyei Area Administration, have now departed, from Blue Nile and Sennar (states) on 19 November and from Khartoum on 20 November with an estimated total of approximately 2,000 returnees.”
He added that at Kosti, in White Nile state, the UN's partners have detected 5,307 spontaneous returns in the month of November – equivalent to roughly double the average total for the same period in previous years.
On 9 January next year, the inhabitants of southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the rest of the country, while the residents of the centrally-located Abyei area, will vote on whether to be part of the north or the south.
The referenda will be the final phase in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended two decades of conflict between the northern-based Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the south.
UNMIS is working with both parties on options for a possible augmentation of additional UN peacekeepers in Sudan, to increase referendum and post-referendum security as well as the UN's capacity to verify and monitor possible ceasefire violations and to protect civilians throughout the mission area.
The Humanitarian Coordinator said that the efforts to help those returning also include a particular focus on livelihoods and services to promote the reintegration of the returnees, in order to help avoid creating dependency or new camps for internally displaced persons.
“We should not put people who are self-reliant into a situation of dependency,” Mr. Charpentier said, adding that humanitarian operators in the country welcomed the commitment of authorities in both northern and southern Sudan to de-linking returns from any political considerations tied to the upcoming referenda.
He also noted that the UN and its partners were coordinating their contingency plans for any uncertainty related to the outstanding benchmarks of the CPA, including the referenda.
“To ensure timely support, supplies in key life-saving sectors, including health, nutrition, water, and food are being procured and pre-positioned in several places and in line with potential needs,” Mr. Charpentier said, adding that the Government – in both the North and South – has been called on to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to vulnerable populations.