SUDAN WATCH: Abyei: UNICEF advises against Abyei repatriation now

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Abyei: UNICEF advises against Abyei repatriation now

UPDATE ON MONDAY, JULY 27, 2009 16:45 GMT UK: APPARENTLY, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF INACCURACIES REGARDING UNICEF IN THE FOLLOWING STORY.  More on this to follow later - and, if possible, a formal correction from UNICEF.Meanwhile, note to self.  I have just clicked into the following articles at Sudan Radio Service and Sudan Tribune and found they have been deleted.  So I did a search on Google for the Sudan Tribune article and found a cache of the original copy.  Consequently, for my own reference, I have today inserted the following line into the article excerpted here below:  
by Ngor Arol Garang (ABYEI) July 23, 2009

Also, I inserted the word "said" in line 2 of this blog post.
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Update on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 17:35 GMT UK:  Yesterday, I received an email from Sudan Radio Service saying they had received a call that morning from Douglas Armour from UNICEF in Juba.  Apparently, there are a number of inaccuracies in the following news based on an article in Sudan Tribune:  UNICEF do not have staff as named in the Sudan Tribune article and they never said what was attributed to them.  Now, I expect and await a press release from Douglas Armour to surface via Sudan Radio Service asap.  If such a retraction never materialises, I shall think it mighty fishy that he, as Communications Manager for UNICEF Southern Sudan Area Programme goes around getting news articles on UNICEF pulled from websites without providing clarification and/or press release concerning UNICEF's news and views on the repatriation of IDPs currently in Abyei.  More more here later.

Update on Wednesday, July 29, 2009:  Email received today from Sudan Radio Service:
Correction: following our story about the possible repatriation of IDPs in Abyei on 24 July, we received this statement from UNICEF in Juba:
"Recently, a Sudan Radio Service report suggested that UNICEF officials had made statements on the humanitarian situation in Abyei and Agok in Sudan.
UNICEF wishes to put on record that none of its officials have made any recent statements regarding the humanitarian situation in Abyei or Agok."
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

On Wednesday, as noted here at Sudan Watch, South Sudan's Vice President Riek Machar said: "We should start the process of repatriation of the Abyei area as soon as possible".

Yesterday, UNICEF country director, Arop Alor Arop, said IDPs should harvest their crops first and wait for the situation to calm down before returning to their villages.

Also, UNICEF emergency officer, Heaven Johnson, said everybody is hoping people come back to their villages as soon as possible now that the dispute over Abyei town and its surrounding is settled:  "At the same time we also believe it would be prudent to assume that by September over one thousand could have gone back and that we would still have four thousand displaced through the year."

On a visit to Abyei July 9, South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, promised that his government would embark on developmental plans using unity development funds.

Sources:  See here below.

Sudan Radio Service report Friday, 24 July 2009  - UNICEF Advises Against Abyei Repatriation Now:
(Abyei) – The United Nations Children’s Fund has warned that the repatriation of internally displaced persons in Abyei should not be carried out now until the situation has calmed down.

Speaking to Sudan Radio Service from Abyei, UNICEF’s country director, Arop Alor Arop, said that repatriation cannot take place given the current political situation on the ground following the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

[Arop Alor Arop]: “They will go back to their villages after the situation has calmed down following the ruling of the Abyei arbitration on 22 July. Because right now we are not sure of what will happen and also they should harvest their crops first.”

Arop said that the IDPs in Lou, Marial Machak, Tanly, Makier Abior, Rumamir, Mabuk and Majak are all getting support from international NGOs.

[Arop Alor Arop]: “They get food from the World Food Program and other NGOs like UNICEF and the Red Cross. Mercy Corps helps the IDPs with medicine and CRS helps them with water. Those are the only NGOs which are providing the basic necessities.”

The SRRC deputy director in Abyei, Akot Manchok, said that they started repatriation in December 2008. But they still have nearly 800 families in each of these villages. He explains the difficulties the IDPs face.

[Akot Manchok]: “The first thing is security and also the villages are not accessible because the roads are not good in the area which connects the villages and the town. In Abyei those things are there, but they lack many things. For example, in the hospital, the doctors are not available because the government here has no budget. The budget was not approved, so no doctors can be employed to serve the people in this area.”

Akot Manchok said that many children do not go to school because of a lack of teachers in the area.
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Excerpt of article from Sudan Tribune, Friday, 24 July 2009 - UN warns more IDPs from Abyei should wait in camps till next year - by Ngor Arol Garang (ABYEI) July 23, 2009:
Speaking to reporters today in Agok, UNICEF emergency officer, Heaven Johnson said everybody is hoping people come back to their villages as soon as possible now that the dispute over Abyei town and its surrounding is settled.

"At the same time we also believe it would be prudent to assume that by September over one thousand could have gone back and that we would still have four thousand displaced through the year," added Johnson, who recently visited Agok, south of Abyei.

He further said hundreds of children were at risk of not attending schools last year, mainly due to the destruction of school buildings by the military personnel in Abyei and the fact that some schools were used to shelter soldiers and IDPS in other villages.

However, Arop Matiok, from the emergency response unit of the Abyei administration said 507 families had returned as of 15 July.

"We are now beginning the process of repatriating people housed in schools as many of those from camps have returned," he said.

But, he was quick to add that families wishing to return have many concerns.

In Agok, the school that housed the largest number of IDPs has already been closed and two more would be shut down soon as residents vacate them.

"The school my daughters attended in our village in Abyei was destroyed last year. It has not re-opened. If we go back now, they could miss a whole year, said Awut Deng an IDP staying with her small brother currently studying at Agok primary school.

She said her father had suggested the children be enrolled at a school in Agok.

According to local reports, between 30 and 50 schools across Abyei particularly for girls were destroyed by militants in Abyei after May clash between SPLA and SAF.

GOSS President Salva Kiir Mayardit when he visited Abyei on July 9 promised that his government would embark on developmental plans using unity development funds. Also, children have already started going back to schools in Abyei this year.

But, many residents remain skeptical and say there is so much to be done here. "Everything is in ruined and it will take months and years for life to return to normality, said Arop Ayiik, 50, a businessman who has been in the area even after the destruction.

Earlier, Heaven said people who are still in camps would need continued humanitarian support. The international response had been insufficient and it was host communities who had offered the bulk of support to IDPs, he added.

However," these hosts are now anxious that their guests return to their own homes. It has been a big strain to support additional people. We want them to return now," said Awut Arop Kuol who sells tea in Agok town and has been hosting her relatives from Abyei since 15 May 2008.

Earlier, Heaven, said apart of education, IDPs continue to worry about food security and other related issues. Although government of Southern Sudan purchased sorghums to support hunger stricken region this year, to support returning families, residents say little is being done.

They also say local prices of basic items are very high. There are frequent shortages and it is hard to manage.

Sudan Tribune news Friday 24 July 2009:

Click on Abyei label here below for related reports and updates on Abyei.

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