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Ethiopia: Possible new site for Fugnido's refugees

Briefing notes

Ethiopia: Possible new site for Fugnido's refugees

21 February 2003

In Ethiopia, where 107 Sudanese refugees were killed in a five-month spate of ethnic clashes last year, the government has identified a site to which UNHCR can move 24,500 refugees for their own protection. The new site, Odier, in western Ethiopia, was chosen based on its accessibility, proximity to administrative and security establishments, and the tribal composition of local residents. Most important, it was chosen with the consent of the refugees themselves, who want to move from the sprawling, insecure Fugnido camp.

The Ethiopian government has promised adequate security will be provided at the new site, and the UN Security Coordinator is now visiting the area to make sure the site is indeed safe for UNHCR and other aid agencies to serve it. At present, the road leading to the site is a "no-go" area for UN staff due to clan tensions in the region.

If the Odier site (74 km from Gambella) is declared safe, it will cost UNHCR U.S. $1.8 million to turn it into a camp for 23,000 Nuers and Dinkas from Sudan. They asked UNHCR to relocate them after a particularly violent clash with Anuaks on Nov. 27, 2002, when 42 refugees were killed and many more wounded. The clashes left 46 children without one or both parents.

Fugnido camp for Sudanese refugees was opened in 1991 and there has been a long history of antagonisms between Anuaks and Nuers, both inside the camp and within the Ethiopian host community. Given that the history of revenge killings dates back to 1995, all the tribes involved agreed relocation of the Nuers and Dinkas was the only feasible solution. Their move would leave nearly 8,000 Anuaks at Fugnido, where they are happy to stay since they are surrounded by a local community of Anuaks. Following last November's violence, the Ethiopian government has arrested and brought to court those alleged to have carried out the killings.