March 4, 2014 (JUBA) – Sudanese refugees from Blue Nile state came under attack on Tuesday in Upper Nile state’s Maban county as the security situation rapidly deteriorated, a Kampala-based think tank said.
- Refugees from Blue Nile state arrive at the Yusuf Batil refugee camp in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state on 22 June 2012. The site is currently home to almost 40,000 refugees (Photo: Giulio Petrocco/AFP/Getty Images)
According to the Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG), the incident occurred when as unidentified armed group of people wearing military fatigues reportedly from the Maban community attacked civilians in the Yosif Batil camp, home to just under 40,000 refugees.
The exact number of dead and injured has not been confirmed, although more than a dozen people remain unaccounted for, SDFG said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Wednesday. A large number of cattle have also been reported stolen.
Hundreds of refugees have reportedly fled to a nearby NGO compound, while others who remained behind in the camps, including a high number of women and children, remain fearful of further attacks.
Some refugees have already elected to return to areas inside Blue Nile, amid safety fears and a worsening humanitarian crisis.
The security situation in Maban county, where more than 122,000 refugees from Blue Nile state are hosted in four separate camps, has remained uncertain since violence flared in South Sudan in mid-December.
SDFG says simmering tensions in areas surrounding the camps has steadily escalated due to frequent confrontations in Upper Nile state between Sudan Sudan army (SPLA) forces loyal to the Salva Kiir-led government and troops aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar.
State capital Malakal, which changed hands several times at the height of the conflict, was the scene of further violence recently, with rebels reportedly gaining the upper hand.
“The ongoing war in South Sudan has aggravated simmering tensions between the host community and refugees in Maban, which surfaced when the arrival of large numbers of refugees increased the competition for natural resources,” SDFG said in its statement.
It adds that a major confrontation was “was only a matter of time” given the increased deterioration of livelihood options and the availability of small arms within both communities, a hangover from South Sudan’s protracted civil war with the north.
SDFG says pro-Machar forces also led a bid to take control of Upper Nile’s oil fields, including Adar Yel, located in Maban county and in immediate proximity to the refugee camps.
The think tank has warned the consequences could be “catastrophic” if full-scale violence spreads to areas near the camps