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Ethiopia: urgent meetings on Sudanese killings

Briefing notes

Ethiopia: urgent meetings on Sudanese killings

3 December 2002

UNHCR officials and the regional head of our main partner in Ethiopia, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), are today in Fugnido refugee camp, where 41 Sudanese refugees were killed in several skirmishes between refugee groups over the past week.

Currently, some 200 frightened refugees who fled the camp following the first clashes last Wednesday remain in the compound housing UNHCR and ARRA. In Wednesday's clashes, 33 persons were killed, including 18 women, one of whom was six months pregnant, while nine were injured.

The delegation visiting Fugnido today plans to meet with refugees from the various ethnic communities in the camp to try to reduce tensions that have been simmering for much of the last six months. The problems within the camp are reportedly fed in part by tribal and political conflicts present among the host community in this remote corner of Ethiopia. The refugees' affiliations with various factions of the anti-Khartoum Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) are also said to be fuelling the dispute. Some disputes also involve grazing rights.

UNHCR and the government have agreed to set up a joint government/UNHCR body to help ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. We are also studying the possibility of shifting some tribal communities in Fugnido to other sites in order to ease the ethnic tensions that have been simmering in the region for months. Fugnido shelters 28,700 refugees. It is the largest of five camps in the region, sheltering more than 85,000 Sudanese refugees. Most of them arrived beginning in 1991.