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Sudan: Cattle theft revenge attacks halt repatriation

Briefing notes

Sudan: Cattle theft revenge attacks halt repatriation

4 December 2007

Tribal rows sparked by cattle thefts in the eastern region of South Sudan, have forced UNHCR to temporarily suspend the repatriation of Sudanese refugees - mainly from Kenya - to the area.

Clashes in Jonglei State between Murle and Dinka tribesmen over the theft of cattle have degenerated into widespread revenge attacks in the past fortnight, leaving 34 dead and scores wounded.

The situation remains tense with fears that the revenge attacks could spread to other parts of Jonglei state, including Pibor, Boma and Porchalla - major return areas for refugees and internally displaced persons.

A UN security assessment mission is due to take place in Jonglei tomorrow (Wednesday) to determine the level of the security threat.

The refugees most affected by the temporary suspension are those in Kakuma camp in north-west Kenya, where 85 percent of the 3, 000 refugees who signed up for repatriation for the remainder of 2007 wish to return to Jonglei State. In addition, thousands of displaced people who have expressed their readiness to return to the area will also be affected by the measure.

Meanwhile, UNHCR and IOM are continuing to assist the repatriation of refugees bound for the South Sudanese regions of Eastern Equatoria and Upper Nile, where security is stable, as well as to the Blue Nile State. These refugees are mainly returning from Uganda.

Since 2005, UNHCR has helped over 70,000 Sudanese refugees return to South Sudan and the Blue Nile regions. Another 90,000 have returned to both areas using their own means.