Ann Brown, Refugees International
For Immediate Release
June 29, 2010 (Washington, D.C.) -- Nearly two million Southern Sudanese living in northern Sudan are at great risk for targeted violence and statelessness in the aftermath of the planned January 2011 referendum on Southern independence, Refugees International said in a report released today.
The advocacy group calls on the United Nations, the U.S. Government and other nations to assist in the pre-referendum voluntary return of Southern Sudanese displaced in Khartoum and implement other measures to prevent violence and loss of legal rights by Southerners in the North and Northerners in the South.
“Southerners displaced in Khartoum expressed grave concern about their physical safety following the referendum. Many don’t trust Sudan’s security forces to protect them, and it is unlikely that UNMIS – the UN peacekeeping force – will be in a position to offer physical protection,” stated Jennifer Smith, Refugees International advocate and report co-author.
“The U.S. and other nations should provide transportation support for those displaced Southern Sudanese who want to return home – not only for their safety, but to lessen the potential for North-South violence in the aftermath of the referendum.” Statements by National Congress Party officials and articles in a newspaper owned by President Omar al Bashir’s uncle questioning why Southerners should stay in the North after the referendum have contributed to Southerners’ fears.
Despite safety concerns, many Southern Sudanese are achieving economic and educational success in Khartoum and worry about forced expulsion.
“University students are afraid they will be forced to return to the South after the referendum, sacrificing the tremendous investment of time and money they have made in their education,” stated Smith.
“The critical issue is that Southerners in the North and Northerners in the South are key targets for post-referendum violence, yet the UN has not adequately included them in its contingency planning,” said Joel Charny, RI’s Vice President for Policy and report co-author. “With six months to go, it’s time to move beyond scenario planning and into action to prevent widespread violence. International actors need to think in concrete terms about the possible risks to vulnerable communities like these and make specific plans about how the international community – represented by UNMIS and the UN country team – will respond.”
The report noted that Southerners in Khartoum uniformly expressed great concern about their legal rights following the referendum. “Citizenship issues are supposed to be addressed prior to the referendum but this has not risen to the same level of importance as oil revenue and border demarcation on the long list of priority issues,” stated Charny. “The U.S. and other governments must assist and pressure parties on both sides to reach an agreement that will prevent southerners in the north and northerners in the south from losing legal rights or becoming stateless."
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. (refugeesinternational.org)