Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

Ethiopia: Sudanese camp still off limits

Briefing notes

Ethiopia: Sudanese camp still off limits

10 December 2002

Security concerns continue to prevent aid workers, including UNHCR staff, from entering the Fugnido camp for Sudanese refugees in south-western Ethiopia, where 41 refugees were killed in late November during a spate of ethnic clashes.

Fugnido, established in 1991, is home to more than 28,700 refugees and is the largest of five refugee settlements in south-western Ethiopia's Gambella region, where a total of 85,000 Sudanese are sheltered.

202 frightened refugees remain encamped in the compound housing UNHCR and the offices of the Ethiopian Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) just outside Fugnido. Their homes and all their personal effects have reportedly been looted since they sought refuge in the compound. As we're still not permitted to go into the area, we have to rely on information from local personnel who speak to us or to other aid agencies that normally operate in the camp.

Save the Children, which oversees education in the camp, reports that primary and junior secondary schools in Fugnido have been completely looted of furniture and other material. Losses in the schools amount to more than $11,600, they report.

Aid workers have identified 46 children who lost one or both parents in late November's clashes. In just one of the clashes that occurred, 33 Sudanese refugees, including 18 women, were killed when refugees from the Anuak tribe armed with semi-automatic AK-47 rifles descended on a group of ethnic Dinkas. One of the women among those killed in this horrifying attack was six months pregnant.

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.

The clashes in Fugnido highlight the need for ARRA and the Ethiopian government to ensure that basic principles of refugee protection and monitoring are applied so that UNHCR staff and the trained personnel of our implementing partners have access to the refugees, while Ethiopian police and army forces ensure security within the settlement.

In the meantime, senior Ethiopian government and ARRA officials visited the camp last week to meet with the refugees and to try to calm the situation. Ethiopian troops based in the area have been reinforced and are patrolling the camp.