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Ethiopia: tension eases slightly around Gambella

Briefing notes

Ethiopia: tension eases slightly around Gambella

19 December 2003

The security situation in the refugee-hosting part of western Ethiopia around the town of Gambella has eased somewhat since a wave of ethnic violence swept through the area earlier in the week. Although still tense, some shops and government offices have re-opened and people are on the streets in Gambella.

Flights have also resumed out of Gambella and six non-essential UNHCR staff from the town arrived in Addis Ababa yesterday. Staff from Fugnido camp, near Gambella, have also been relocated as a precautionary measure.

There is now a heavy military presence in the area, a week after the ambush and murder of a group that included three workers from UNHCR's governmental partner, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA). That attack last Saturday unleashed a wave of ethnic violence that reportedly left many dead.

Ethiopia's Gambella region hosts a total of 85,000 Sudanese refugees in five camps and settlements. Fugnido camp is the largest, with more than 28,000 people.